Reporting from Beirut — Iran's supreme leader called for the end of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's rule, saying Friday that the political upheaval in the Arab world was part of an "irreversible defeat" for the United States and an "Islamic awakening" in the Middle East.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in a rare appearance at Tehran's main Friday prayer venue, compared the popular uprisings against Western-backed autocrats in Tunisia and Egypt to Iran's Islamic Revolution in 1979.
"This is a war between two willpowers: the willpower of the people and the willpower of their enemies," Khamenei said. "The Israelis and the United States are more concerned about what would happen to their interests in a post-Mubarak regime."
Speaking amid heightened security at Tehran University, Khamenei characterized the protests in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and around the region as an "Islamic awakening." He also accused the United States of propping up corrupt leaders to protect its own interests and those of its ally Israel.
"The revival of the Egyptian Muslim people is a liberating Islamic movement," he said.
Egypt's main Islamic opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, immediately dismissed Khamenei's characterization.
"The Muslim Brotherhood regards the revolution as the Egyptian people's revolution, not an Islamic revolution," it said in a statement. "The Egyptian people's revolution includes Muslims, Christians and [is] from all sects and political" tendencies.
Khamenei's speech followed days of similar commentary by other Iranian officials. Representatives of Iran's opposition movement have cast the recent wave of protests in the Arab world as part of a wider struggle against oppressive regimes.
Images of Mubarak supporters wielding rocks and sticks against protesters this week were reminiscent of the violent crackdown in Iran on opponents of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters, "It is remarkable that Iran would make a statement given their actions when it came to their people exercising the same rights that people are exercising now in Cairo."
Lutz is a special correspondent.