Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei slammed the US and Israel in a speech to Muslim leaders on Sunday at an international conference in Tehran. He accused the “world’s arrogant powers” – which he said are led by “the Great Satan” – of wilting in the face of a rising Islamic awakening in the Middle East. “The Zionist regime is much weaker than before,” he claimed, pointing to what he said were Israeli defeats at the hands of Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2006 and Palestinians in Gaza in 2009.
Hitting on familiar themes, Khamenei claimed the world was suffering from the oppression of “world powers,” and that Muslim states should “return to the rule of Islam.” The US, unsurprisingly, was singled out as the fountainhead of problems, with claims that Washington’s “arrogance” was humiliating people in the Middle East. Tweets in English, also slamming the US, followed his speech.
PressTV reported that Khamenei said wherever Islam has triumphed the “arrogance” of the West had been slapped down. Tasnim News and Fars, both of which support the regime, published the supreme leader’s comments in Farsi and provided a deeper look at the current focus of the Iranian leadership. Khamenei said the US sees Saudi Arabia as a “lactating cow,” insinuating that US President Donald Trump’s comments last week about Saudi Arabia investing in the US represents how the US sees the kingdom as primarily important for its cash.
The ayatollah urged the Saudis to be insulted by America’s views. Referencing the conflict in Yemen, he predicted that the Houthis would be victorious and connected their war with the Palestinian conflict against Israel. “The Yemeni people bear the tortures of the Saudi government with US support. Surely Ansar Allah [Houthis] will be victorious.” He also claimed, “America is clearly weaker than 10 years ago, and the Zionist regime is weaker than a few years ago.”
Khamenei said the only solution to the region’s problems was Islamic unity. His comments come after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, at the same conference, called Israel a “cancerous tumor in the region.” Rouhani went further in comments quoted by Fars News, attacking “rabbinical racists who bombard the Palestinian people.”
The Iranian leaders’ comments revisited some historical trends, referring to the US as a “Satan” and condemning Western arrogance. However, support for Yemen and connecting it to the Palestinian issue is a new tack, one that reflects Iran’s greater support for the Houthis. While Tehran preaches Islamic unity, many countries in the region disagree with Iran’s sectarian agenda. For instance, Khameinei has praised Hashd al-Shaabi, the Shi’ite militias in Iraq that are accused of abuses against Sunni civilians. Iran’s role in the Syrian conflict has also tarnished its claim of being involved in “resistance,” when it is widely viewed as oppressing people.
In recent months, protests and unrest in Iran – including incidents among the Arab minority in Ahvaz, Kurds and in the Baloch region – point to anger at the regime and its policies. Speeches by the ayatollah are designed to paper over these problems by speaking about “unity” at a time of increasing disunity, including among many Shi’ites in places like Iraq, where opposition to Iran is growing in some sectors.
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