Radio Free Europe
Iran's Islamic regime and the opposition Green Movement have embarked on a tug-of-war to voice solidarity with the antigovernment demonstrations convulsing Arab countries, as Iran's own long-dormant protest organizations shows signs of reviving
The latest phase in an ideological struggle to claim spiritual kinship with the Arab wave of revolt took place on February 20, when Iranian protesters were met with a brutal crackdown from security forces after taking to the streets for the second time in a week.'Now It's Time For Sayed Ali'
Although international media were barred from covering the gatherings, a video obtained and published by Reuters showed demonstrators chanting slogans sympathetic to the movements that recently toppled the long-serving presidents of Egypt and Tunisia, Hosni Mubarak and Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. "Mubarak, Ben Ali, now it's time for Sayed Ali," protesters chanted in a slogan demanding the removal of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
But the sentiments clashed with Khamenei's own comments, which insisted that Egypt's "people movements" and other Arab rebellions were in line with Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution.
"The enemies try to say that the popular movements in Egypt, Tunisia, and other nations are un-Islamic, but certainly these popular movements are Islamic and must be consolidated," Khamenei told a gathering of Shi'ite and Sunni scholars at an international conference in Islam on February 20.
The comments echoed others made by Khamenei and leading Iranian figures. In a Friday Prayer sermon on February 4 -- a week before Mubarak resigned -- Khamenei called for the installation of an Islamic regime in Egypt.
Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad has also hailed the Egyptian uprising as inspired by his own brand of messianic Islam.
"The final move has begun...a great awakening is unfolding. One can witness the hand of Imam in managing it," Ahmadinejad declared on February 11, the day of Mubarak's departure.
The Tehran regime's claim to be on the side of the Arab protesters appears in part to have prompted Mir Hossein Musavi and Mehdi Karrubi, the de facto leaders of the Green Movement, to call Iran's first opposition protests in a year.
"We called for a demonstration to show our movement is alive and to stop the Iranian government's propaganda abuse of pro-democracy movements in the region," Karrubi said, after calling an antigovernment demonstration for February 14.Double Standards
Green Movement leaders have been particularly incensed by the government's perceived double standards in condemning the Mubarak regime's violent suppression of protests when Iranian security forces used equally brutal tactics to quell mass demonstrations against Ahmadinejad's disputed reelection in 2009, which Musavi and Karrubi say was stolen.
The official Iranian line was expressed by the parliament speaker, Ali Larijani, on February 10 when he told Al-Jazeera: "The Egyptians have a peaceful protest. Why are they reacting to them with bullets and violence?"
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