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Mubarak out as Iran's Ahmadinejad claims ownership of Mideast 'divine awakening'

As Egypt rejoiced over Mubarak's removal, President Ahmadinejad marked the 32nd anniversary of the 1979 Iran revolution with a speech declaring it was the foundation for the popular unrest spreading through Arab nations.

By Staff Writer / February 11, 2011

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attends a rally marking the 32nd anniversary of 1979 Islamic Revolution, as people hold posters of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Iranian flags, in Azadi (Freedom) Street in Tehran, Friday.

Vahid Salemi/AP

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Baghdad, Iraq

Iranians marked the 32nd anniversary of their Islamic revolution on Friday, with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claiming that Iran was the vanguard of a popular and divine "awakening” now under way “in every corner of this planet.”

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State television showed split-screen images juxtaposing the annual rally in Tehran with Egyptians massing in Cairo, as Mr. Ahmadinejad said that Iran’s 1979 revolution was inspiring a “new Middle East” with popular upheavals.

Iran’s revolution was “the starting point of the rule of God over the earth,” Ahmadinejad proclaimed. “It’s a long path to fight against evil-doers; everyone must be aware of Satanic deceptions” of the United States, Israel, and the West, he said; they would soon be “destroyed” with divine assistance, as Iran led humankind to “summits of perfection.”

Iran's 1979 revolution electrified the Middle East by toppling a US-backed dictator with people power. Ahmadinejad’s speech, given just hours before Egypt's Hosni Mubarak stepped down from power, is the latest in a series of attempts by senior Iranian officials to take ownership of the popular unrest spreading through Arab nations.

Despite the revolutionary rhetoric, many Arabs note the irony of Iran giving advice, when it crushed its own pro-democracy movement in 2009.

In Sunni Egypt especially, protesters and the embattled government alike have dismissed any connection to Shiite Iran, past or present, as inappropriate and unwanted. One Egyptian minister told Iran’s supreme leader to hear calls for freedom in Iran, instead of “distracting the Iranian people’s attention by hiding behind [events] in Egypt.”

And there is trouble for Iran at home, too, where Iranians often express disappointment that the revolution has failed to live up to its promises of freedom and greater social equality.

Paranoid about change

The result is that Iran’s leaders “are paranoid” of similar change in Iran, says a veteran analyst in Tehran, who could not be named. “When they think about it in a serious way, and distance themselves from the propaganda they are making, they notice that the divisions [in Iran] are huge.”

“The potential is there and it is real, that if they loosen the grip they have, voices will start to express themselves – and they are resisting that so strongly,” says the analyst. “They don’t even allow for a small divergence from the official line. They see, in the smallest diversion, Satanic influences.… of course, [this] is not healthy.”

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