A good analysis of some of the major players in the Middle East –
While neither the Islamic Republic nor the Brotherhood support democracy in the Western sense of the term, an element of popular representation–and thus legitimacy–is important for both. Thus, Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood can find common ideological ground. Initially, the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt supported the Iranian Islamic Revolution. This too is remembered in Tehran.
From the Iranian perspective, it is important to note that the ongoing regional sectarian conflict between Shi’a and Sunnis is not considered inevitable, or desirable. Nevertheless, the reality of this conflict has limited the possibility of cooperation between Teheran and the Brotherhood.
The links between Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood are long standing. The first religiously motivated terrorist movement in Iran, Fadayan-e Islam, under the leadership of Navob Safavi, was inspired by the example of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and its leader Sayyid Qutb. In the past, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood supported the principle of unity between Shi’a and Sunnis, which was called “rapprochement of the schools” or taqrib al-madhahib. Many Iranian Shi’i activists, such as prominent Iranian religious activist Hadi Khosrowshahi, maintain this view of the situation.
Iran is fully aware of the regional problems complicating the regime’s cooperation with the Muslim Brotherhood. As a result, the republic does not have a unified, clear, and coherent policy with regard to the group. Iranian calculus with respect to the Brotherhood has never been publicly discussed. One cannot say that the Iranian stance on the Brotherhood is as easily assessed as Iran’s stance on Israel or Syria, for example.
When the Iranian media refers to the “Muslim Brotherhood,” it means exclusively the Egyptian branch of the movement and not the European branch or the al-Islah party in Kuwait. Despite common ideology, the goals and interests of the Muslim Brotherhood branches in each of the Arab countries differ. For example, the Tunisian Ennahda and the Egyptian Hizb al-Idalah each have unique objectives. The Iranians have thus adopted a per-country approach to each MB faction.
Notwithstanding common ideology, none of the Muslim Brotherhood movements can detach themselves from regional geopolitics and local interests. There is often disagreement even within the same movement. Generation gaps are also significant.
For instance, the situation in Egypt could push the Brotherhood to further radicalization and rapprochement with jihadi groups and even total abandonment of politics. This is also true regarding the Brotherhood’s vision of the Shi’a and Iran. No Muslim Brotherhood movement can overtly ignore the massacres perpetrated by the Alawi regime in Syria and its Iranian Shi’i supporters or ignore the Iranian subversion in the Gulf, as doing so would mean positioning itself in opposition to the Arab world and to its native constituency.
On the other hand, and in contrast to overtly jihadi movements, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood as well as the Palestinian Hamas are not interested in the intensification of the sectarian conflict or in the demonization of Iran.