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Why Iran smiles on Jerusalem clashes

The Jerusalem clashes between Israeli police and Palestinians that injured more than 100 today, together with an unfolding crisis between the US and Israel, give beleaguered Iran an opportunity to boost its clout.

By Staff writer / March 16, 2010

Iran is closely watching the Jerusalem clashes with Palestinians that injured more than 100 today. Palestinian youths seen here throw stones toward Israeli troops during clashes near the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Wadi al-Joz, Tuesday.

Baz Ratner/Reuters

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Istanbul, Turkey

Iran is closely watching the unfolding crisis between Israel and the United States over Israeli settlements – and Jerusalem clashes with Palestinians that injured more than 100 today – for ways to rejuvenate its diminished influence in the Middle East.

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Public division between the US and its closest ally Israel – two arch-foes of Iran that have made curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions a top priority – are a gift to the Islamic Republic, analysts say, as it tries to fend off US and Israeli efforts to forge a coalition against it. Hard-line officials will use it as a further example of the US as a lapsed superpower – a point they frequently affirm.

Iran has seen its reputation tarnished across much of the Middle East by weeks of violent street clashes after the June 2009 presidential election, which many Iranians believe was rigged.

“The Iranians are going to see an opportunity to improve their position in the region, to capitalize on Israel’s reduced standing vis-à-vis the US, to reduce the chances of an anti-Iran coalition being formed,” says Meir Javedanfar, an Israel-based Iran analyst.

“If the situation drags on – and especially if Israel continues to defy the United States – I think the Iranians will definitely take advantage, and will try to make an agreement, especially with the Persian Gulf countries,” not to gang up against Iran, says Mr. Javedanfar, coauthor of The Nuclear Sphinx of Tehran. “They would be able to say to them: ‘Look, the Americans are not even able to convince their friends to do what they want. They’re going to have much less chance to stand up to their enemies such as Iran.”

Why Israel helps Iran keep its 'revolutionary' status

Demonizing the US and Israel – sometimes referred to in Iran's ideological parlance as the "Great Satan" and "Little Satan" – has been a pillar of the regime since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

After more than 31 years, chants of “Death to America!” and “Death to Israel!” and flag burning remain routine at pro-regime rallies. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad often claims that Israel’s oppressive policies against Palestinians will cause the destruction of the Jewish state.

Such a result – were it ever to happen – would relieve Iran of a constant thorn in its side, but also deprive it of one of the perennial enemies it has used to maintain its “revolutionary” status.

Iran slams Israel over 1,600 housing units

Iranian officials kept up that pressure on Tuesday, taking Israel to task for its announcement to build 1,600 new housing units in East Jerusalem – made during Vice President Joe Biden’s visit last week – and for the rebuilding of an East Jerusalem synagogue that was destroyed in 1948.

“This wrong conduct by the illegitimate Zionist regime ... is intensely condemned,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said on Tuesday. “We think that these trips [by US officials] are intended to cover up the Zionist regime’s conduct and US authorities are largely incapacitated [in the face of] the Zionist regime’s crimes.”