Iran’s top leader warned the Arab world yesterday not to allow Western powers and Israel to “confiscate” the region’s pro-reform uprisings, in comments that appear to reflect the Islamic republic’s unease about their standing in a profoundly altered Middle East.

 

Iran has tried to walk two paths since the pro-democracy rebellions began in February — lauding the popular revolts as modern-day heirs to Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution, while maintaining relentless pressure on opposition groups at home.

 

But Iran is at risk of serious political setbacks. Iran’s main Mideast ally, Syria's Bashar Assad, is under growing international pressure for his fierce crackdown on anti-government protests.

 

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in a speech broadcast on Iran’s state TV to mark the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, reflected the added worries that the West and its allies could gain ground in the Arab Spring.

 

“Muslim nations in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Yemen or other countries need vigilance today. They should not allow enemies to confiscate the victories they’ve achieved,” Khamenei said. “They should not forget that those who have come to the scene in Libya (U.S. and NATO) today and consider themselves owners of the uprising are the same people who used to sit and drink with those who once suppressed the Libyan nation.”

In Iran’s view, collapse of pro-U.S. governments in Egypt and Tunisia were strong blows to U.S. influence in the region and a new “Islamic awakening.”