Israel Radio reported this morning that the Egyptian authorities had refused a request from the United States to examine a cargo of weapons from Iran passing through the Suez Canal on its way to Syria.
The refusal takes place at a time when Egypt’s new president, Mohammed Morsi, following his first visit to China as head of state, is about to attend the 16th summit of the Non Aligned Movement (NAM) of 120 developing nations starting today in Iran.
This will be the first time that an Egyptian leader has visited Teheran since Iran’s Islamic revolution and the signing of the Camp David peace accords with Israel back in 1979.
The fact that such a summit should be convening in Teheran of all places at a time when the international community is pressuring Iran to come clean about its nuclear programme is of itself disturbing. President Ahmadinejad said only last week that Israel’s very existence is an “insult to all humanity”.
While the so-called “Arab Spring” may have led to the fall of several dictatorships in the Arab world, it has not necessarily brought stability to the region and, from Israel’s perspective, some of the new regimes that have taken their place are distinctly more Islamic in their ideology and have inevitably led to Israel feeling more isolated and threatened than it has done for the past thirty years.
As if to emphasize the point, reports are coming in as I write of a rocket attack from the Gaza Strip on the southern Israeli town of Sederot causing damage to two factories.
The current political unrest in the Middle East, including daily reports of the horrific carnage taking place in Syria, only serve to strengthen our anxiety about the future and the implications of an Iran equipped with nuclear weapons, which would change the whole balance of power in the region. That is not on the cards.
The NAM summit provides further evidence of the fact that attempts to isolate Iran politically and economically have not been entirely effective. The only question that remains now is whether the United States can be relied upon to neutralize Iran’s nuclear programme, or whether Israel will be left to go it alone.