Wikileaks has released a leaked reported showing that Saudi Arabia was concerned over Shiite influence in post-revolution Egypt, working to prevent any Iranian encroachment into the politics of the majority Sunni country.
A report by former Saudi Foreign Affairs Minister Saud Al Faisal, who died earlier this week, was sent to the Saudi prime minister in May 2012 detailing the activities of the Saudi ambassador in Cairo in combatting "Shiite encroachment" in Egypt.
Faisal said that Ambassador Ahmed Qattan has confirmed that almost all religious institutions and figures mentioned in the report refused to hold any Shiite gatherings. The institutions and religious authorities mentioned in the latest Wikileaks cable included Al-Azhar Grand Sheikh Mohammed Sayed Tantawy, members of the Islamic Research Center, Ansar Al Sunna Al Mohammadiya Group, Al-Gamiyah Al Shariyah Association as well as others, according to Mada Masr.
One of the prominent names mentioned in the cables is Mohammed Hassan, a Salafist preacher. Faisal relayed a conversation between the Saudi ambassador and preacher about the "danger of attempts by Iran to hold Shia gatherings in Egypt." He then asked the ambassador if Saudi Arabia could take on a supportive stance in putting a stop to these attempts.
The cable, which were obtained by Mada Masr, also included an update by the ambassador on Hassan's work on this issue. Sponsored by Al-Azhar, Hassan held a press conference “to resist the Shia encroachment by publishing books and jurisprudence periodicals, and holding seminars and conferences in clubs and youth gatherings to warn of this sectarian danger.”
Other documents expose Saudi's constant worry of reconciliation between Egypt and Iran, on both the governmental level and religious institutions, specifically Al-Azhar Islamic Institute.
In a cable that was sent in July 2008, Faisal told the head of office in the Saudi cabinet that the ambassador in Egypt was highly concerned with "a new Iranian attempt to penetrate Al-Azhar." Requests had been made by the head of Iran's Interest Section in Cairo to Tantawy to open Al-Azhar Institutes in Iran.
Evidently, the cable also revealed that Tantawy initially liked the idea and consented to admitting Shiite students in Al-Azhar. In 2007, Al-Azhar did allow Shiite students to enroll in Al-Azhar University.
"Al-Azhar teaches its students all Islamic ideologies including Shia. Al-Azhar cannot close its doors in the face of any Muslim, as long as they carry out the criteria for admission," Tantawy said.
However, documents sent in September 2008 by Saudi Prime Minister Abdullah Bin Abdel Aziz to the Saudi heir and head of the Supreme Council For Islamic Affairs, disclosed the growing concerns over Iranians and Shiites in Egypt.