Egypt, Through Iran's Prism

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By coincidence, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stepped down exactly 32 years to the day when the Shah of Iran, another regime that was backed by the U.S., saw his demise.

From Istanbul, NPR's Peter Kenyon reports that at a rally today in Tehran's Azadi Square, a huge crowd gathered to celebrate the revolution that brought the Ayatollah Khomeini to power 32 years ago. Government officials handed children in the crowd Egyptian flags and president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claimed kinship with Egyptian protesters in Tahrir Square. Ahmadinejad proclaimed a new era dawning, one in which the influence of the U.S. and Israel in the Arab and Muslim world is coming to an end.

"Despite the evil and complex plots, thanks to the resistance and vigilance of nations, a new Middle East will emerge without the U.S. and Zionist regimes, and there will be no room for the arrogant in the region," he said.

Peter reports that those statements were quickly ridiculed on opposition Iranian websites, especially those from Iran's Green Movement, which turned out people in huge numbers for street protests in 2009.

Peter adds some analysis:

Analysts said iran has in fact been walking a political tightrope on the Tunisian and Egyptian protests — on the one hand claiming them as an extension of Iran's Islamic revolution, and on the other strictly prohibiting all but pro-regime figures to speak out. At the anniversary celebrations shown on state television, pro-Egyptian sentiment was carefully controlled.

Meanwhile, opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi remained under house arrest. The opposition has asked for a permit to stage a demonstration of its own in support of pro-democracy activists in Egypt and Tunisia. The request was received coolly, and so far no permit has been granted.

Karroubi told the New York Times that if Iran's leaders "are not going to allow their own people to protest, it goes against everything they are saying, and all they are doing to welcome the protests in Egypt is fake."

It's not at all clear that Iran will have much influence on the events unfolding in egypt, where a secular military leadership appears to be in control. World leaders are urgently calling for free, fair elections and a civilian government. Whether that's what they and the people of Egypt get is very much up in the air today.



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