Iran Backs Egyptian Protests

Islamists, opposition movements in Jordan, Iran and an Israeli Arab Knesset Member back anti-government protesters in Egypt. Anarchy spreads.

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu, | updated: 00:10

Egyptian riot police
Egyptian riot police
Israel news photo: Wikimedia Commons/Flickr

Opposition movements in Jordan and Iran, an Israeli Arab Knesset Member and the Iranian government are encouraging anti-government protesters in Egypt. Anarchy spreads.

Prisoners, set free by Egyptian police to help them brutally suppress street rallies, were joined by other criminals and went on a rampage Saturday, looting hundreds of stores and homes in wealthy areas of Cairo.

Several areas of the country bordered on anarchy as Muslim extremists set up roadblocks and vied for control in different regions.

The prospect of a downfall of the Mubarak regime at the hands of a “peoples’ revolution” has sent shivers through Israel, the United States and Saudi Arabia, all of whom fear the Muslim Brotherhood will emerge as a dominant force in Egypt.

Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi encouraged the anti-Mubarak movement, stating on his website Saturday, "Our nation respects and salutes the huge revolution by the brave Tunisian people and the rightful uprising of the Egyptian and Yemeni people.”

Iranian Muslim clerics also have taken a stand against Mubarak. "An Islamic Middle East is taking shape," Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami said in a Friday sermon. "A new Middle East is emerging based on Islam ... based on religious democracy."

The semi-official Fars News Agency reported that the Revolutionary Guards commander Hossein Salami said, "This is what comes of hegemonic systems dependant on foreign [states] that start a dictatorial movement n their country. He stated that the protest movement in Egypt is a "manifestation of the [Iran's] Islamic Revolution in the Middle East region and the world of Islam."

Israeli Arab MK Ibrahim Sarsur expressed “full support: for the protesters in Egypt." He added, " The Arab police states have given their peoples no other option but to take to the streets for a people’s revolution to topple the suppressing regimes and to free themselves from the control of dictators.”

The leader of the Jordanian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hammam Saeed, led a rally in Amman and ridiculed the United States and U.S. President Barack Obama, saying they “must be losing sleep over the popular revolt in Egypt. Now, Obama must understand that the people have woken up and are ready to unseat the tyrant leaders who remained in power because of U.S. backing.”

U.S. President Barack Obama faces a new challenge in dealing with the riots in Egypt, which receives massive military aid from the United States but has been roundly criticized for violations of human rights and freedoms.

"Who knows where this is going? Should things not hold in Egypt, or should this catch fire in other Middle Eastern states, people really are going to watch how he handles the first major new foreign crisis on his watch," Ryan C. Crocker, former U.S. ambassador to several Middle Eastern countries, told the Los Angeles Times.

Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk told the newspaper, “The end result could be an ally that we depended on to protect American interests and stability in this volatile region will be toppled, and then a very unstable situation in Egypt will spread across the region, and that can do great damage to our interests.”

However, he also observed, "Clinging to Mubarak, when it's clear that he's lost his legitimacy among the Egyptian people and ends up using force and a great deal of bloodshed to retain his power, could produce the very instability we're trying to avoid.”

David Schenker, a Mideast specialist at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, bluntly stated that he fears that the Muslim Brotherhood will overrun Egypt and destroy the peace treaty with Israel.

Israel has maintained an official silence on the growing crisis in Egypt, but officials have stated anonymously that despite the “cold peace” with Egypt, Israel enjoys a quiet southern border.

"If there is a regime change Israel will have to reassess its strategy to protect its border from one of the most modern militaries in the region,” one senior official told the Associated Press.

Saudi Arabia, which fears a revolution from Muslim extremists in its own country, expressed support for Mubarak. King Abdullah called Mubarak and said, 'Egypt is a country of Arabism and Islam. No Arab and Muslim human being can bear that some infiltrators, in the name of freedom of expression, have infiltrated into the brotherly people of Egypt, to destabilize its security and stability and they have been exploited to spew out their hatred in destruction, intimidation, burning, looting and inciting a malicious sedition,'" according to the government press agency.