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Khameini: West Can't 'Confiscate' Arab Spring

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini warned Arab nations the West is trying to confiscate the Arab Spring.
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 9/1/2011, 8:52 PM

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini warned the Arab world Wednesday that Western powers and Israel wanted to "confiscate" the region's pro-reform uprisings

Iran has tried to walk two paths since the pro-democracy rebellions began in February — lauding the popular revolts as modern-day heirs to Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution, while maintaining relentless pressure on opposition groups at home.

But observers note Khameini's comments underscore Iran's unease over its own  contradictory position on what is rapidly becoming an Arab Autumn and the risk of serious political setbacks Tehran faces.

Iran's main Mideast ally, Syria's Bashar Assad, is under growing international pressure for his fierce crackdown on anti-government protests - and precariously resting on the Tehran's 'Syria bridge' sits its Beirut proxy Hizbullah.

Meanwhile, Iran's primary rivals for hegemony over the Persian Gulf – Saudia Arabia and its Gulf Cooperation Council allies – have ridden out the Arab spring, countered Iran's machinations in the region, and assumed a pivotal role in the West's criticism of Assad.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in a speech broadcast on Iran's state TV to mark the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, reflected the added worries that the West and its allies could gain ground in the Arab Spring.

"Muslim nations in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Yemen or other countries need vigilance today. They should not allow enemies confiscate the victories they've achieved," Khamenei said. "They should not forget that those who have come to the scene in Libya (U.S. and NATO) today and consider themselves owners of the uprising are the same people who used to sit and drink with those who once suppressed the Libyan nation."

Iran's supreme leader, who has the final say on all state matters in Iran, urged Libyans not to allow the US and its allies to dominate their country.

On Tuesday, Iran's Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said his country secretly provided humanitarian supplies to Libya's rebel National Transitional Council. Salehi said Iran had sent four medicine and food shipments to the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.

"Today they (the West) seek to take advantage of the situation. Nations must be vigilant and wakeful," said Khamenei.

But he made no mention of Syria, where Assad's regime is struggling to contain opposition forces.

In Iran's view, collapse of pro-U.S. governments in Egypt and Tunisia were strong blows to US influence in the region and a new "Islamic awakening."

"Who thought American and Zionist agents in the region would fall one after the other?" Khamenei said. "This is the powerful hand of the Islamic nations,"

Iran has supported Arab uprisings, saying change of governments in North Africa shows a new Middle East is emerging that will doom Israel and break free of American interference.

Iran has sought to portray the popular uprisings as a replay of its 1979 Islamic Revolution which toppled the pro-US shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, and brought hardliner clerics to power.

At home, Iran's pro-reform dissidents, whose own rising was crushed in 2009 well-before the onset of the 'Arab Spring,' have a different narrative wherein Khameini confiscated Iran's 'Arab Spring.'