Effort to Rebrand Arab Spring Backfires in Iran

(New York Times) Robert F. Worth - More than a thousand young Islamic activists were flown to Tehran earlier this week (at government expense) for a conference on "the Islamic Awakening," Tehran's effort to rebrand the popular Arab uprisings of the past year. But no one was invited from Syria, a crucial Iranian ally. As the conference began, a young man in the audience held up a sign with the word "SYRIA?" written in English. Applause burst out in the crowd, followed by boos. Audience members began chanting the slogan of the Syrian protesters: "God, freedom and Syria!" But they were drowned out by others chanting pro-Assad slogans. Soon afterward, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's president, took the stage and said: "We must be vigilant: the West is trying to foment sectarian conflict in our societies, as part of their goal of keeping Israel alive." "Today Syria, tomorrow your country." Islamist parties are coming to power in Tunisia and Egypt and Morocco, and they may well do so in Libya, Syria and Yemen. But Iran's system of rule by clerics seems very unlikely to prevail in those countries. Iran's Shiite faith is also a serious obstacle. The Iranian effort to hold up the struggle against Israel as a crucible of Islamic unity comes across to many Arabs as doctrinaire and shopworn, no matter how strongly they sympathize with the Palestinian cause.

2012-02-03 00:00:00

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