TEHRAN – As described by Iran’s leaders, the uprising in Egypt has served as vindication of their country’s Islamic revolution 32 years ago. But for the opposition here, the scenes on the streets of Cairo have brought stark reminders of their own unfinished quest for political reform.
The divergent narratives illustrate the deep divide that separates President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his supporters from a struggling opposition movement made up of middle-class urbanites and politicians who were pushed from power. They also underscore the uncertainty over where events in Egypt will lead, allowing political opposites to view them through their own lens.
In endorsing the popular movements in Egypt and Tunisia, Iranian leaders have called them a sign that the region is rising up against the United States. In a sermon on Friday, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, likened the events to an “earthquake” that is uprooting American “servants” among Arab leaders, reflecting diminishing American power.
To disgruntled Iranians, though, the sight of the Iranian government cheering on the Egyptian protesters is seen as deeply ironic. In 2009, when Iranians themselves launched massive protests against the government here, Iran’s leaders labeled them “western-backed rioters” and sent paramilitary forces wielding batons and tear gas to quash their revolt.