Iran Seeks to Put Islamic Stamp on Egyptian ‘Revolution’

By Patrick Goodenough | February 2, 2011 | 5:44 AM EST

Iranian opposition leader Mir-Hossein Mousavi, standing center, addresses supporters at a demonstration in Tehran on Thursday June, 18, 2009. (AP Photo/Ghalam News)

( – Iranian leaders, clerics and politicians are engaged in an apparently orchestrated campaign to describe the political upheaval in Egypt and elsewhere in the Arab world in Islamic terms and link it to Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution.

State-friendly media outlets took the lead early on, but now the theme has been taken up by others, including a top Tehran cleric, a senior military officer who advises Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and a majority of lawmakers in the national parliament.

The same establishment that vilified and cracked down on Iranian opposition supporters who took to the streets after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s disputed re-election in 2009 is hailing the protests that have targeted the Egyptian government for the past week.

Ironically, so is the leader of the opposition Green Movement, Mir Hossein Mousavi – although in his case he linked the demonstrations in Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen not with the Islamic revolution but claimed they drew inspiration from the ill-fated 2009 Iranian protests.

“The starting point of what we are now witnessing on the streets of Tunis, Sana’a, Cairo, Alexandria and Suez can be undoubtedly traced back to days of … June 2009 when people took to the streets of Tehran in millions shouting ‘Where is my vote?’” Mousavi wrote on his Web site.

“If the government respected the sovereignty of the people in determining its fate and had not stolen the Egyptian elections a few months earlier, things would not have come to the point where the protestors were calling for the fall of the regime,” he added, in comments seen as applying to the situation in Iran too.

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is effectively not answerable to anyone. (AP Photo)

When Iran was shaken by protests following the 2009 election, Khamenei and others painted the beleaguered regime as guardians of Islam and the opposition activists as enemies of religion.

In the case of the unrest in the Arab world, they are arguing the opposite.

Tehran’s prayer leader Ayatollah Seyyed Khatami said in a sermon the revolts heralded the establishment of a “new Islamic Middle East,” one based on Islam, the Qur’an and religious popular rule.

The semi-official Fars news agency quoted Khatami as describing the protests in autocratic Arab states as “aftershocks of the Islamic revolution.”

The same expression – “aftershocks of the Islamic revolution” – was used by a former Iranian diplomat, A. Mohammadi, in an opinion piece published by the Tehran Times on Tuesday.

Mohammadi said that although the “aftershocks” had been long delayed “due to extensive joint efforts by these [Arab] governments and their Western overlords,” they were now taking place and would usher in irreversible changes in the region.

He warned that “the United States and its allies should prepare themselves for difficult years that will surely see the fall of their empire in the near future.”

On Tuesday the top military advisor to Khamenei, Major-General Yahya Rahim Safavi, said in a speech to Defense Ministry officials that the Islamic revolution had become the “source of change in the world’s political history.”

Iran’s Islamic revolution became a role model for the Egyptian nation and without doubt the Egyptian dictator will share the same destiny as that of Iran’s dictator,” he said, referring to the U.S.-backed Shah.

Safavi accused the United States of trying to “divert Egypt’s uprising from the right path,” the official IRNA news agency reported.

Also on Tuesday, 214 Iranian lawmakers – out of a total of 290 – signed a statement in support of the Egyptian protests.

Fars reported that the lawmakers “condemned the efforts by certain Western countries as well as the Zionist regime to exhaust and diminish the uprising and separate it from the Islamic values.”

Parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani told the legislature that the time had come “to overcome puppet autocratic regimes by relying on Islamic teachings.”

Incoming Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi also voiced support for the Egyptian and Tunisian protests, saying that “the era of engineering the region and controlling it by the world arrogance [a pejorative term for the U.S.] has ended.”

“With the knowledge that I have of the great revolutionary and history-making people of Egypt, I am sure they will play their role in establishing an Islamic Middle East that serves all freedom-seekers and independent people,” the state broadcaster quoted him as saying.

Meanwhile the supreme leader’s Web site has posted archived statements relating to Egypt, made by Khamenei over the past two decades.

They include criticism of President Hosni Mubarak’s government for suppressing the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood and for its dependence on U.S. aid, along with accusations that it had betrayed Islamic ideals and sold out the Palestinians.

“The Egyptian nation has achieved great honors on the path of Islamic struggle and promoting innovative Islamic thoughts,” he said in one 1993 speech. “The Egyptian nation is a valorous nation. There is no doubt that this nation will not tolerate the treachery of its leaders and will confront them.”

“We are happy wherever Muslim people are wakened,” Khamenei said. “We are happy wherever Muslim people clench their fists against the enemies of their religion.”

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow