We have seen previous Iranian attempts to position itself as the leader of the Islamic world. Its funding of Sunni Hamas is evidence of that aspiration. But for all that, it is unlikely that Sunnis generally will accept a Shi'ite leader of the ummah.
Clergy across Iran used their Friday sermons to spread the idea of a new "international Islam" to be formed under the leadership of Iran's ruling Islamic jurist, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Jaras reports that all of the country's Friday Mass prayer leaders contended that the Arab revolts are directly influenced by "the ideals and slogans of the Islamic Revolution" in Iran. They said the promises made by Islamic Republic leaders over the past thirty years are finally being realized with the export of the Islamic Revolution.
The representatives of Iran's Supreme Leader told worshippers that Muslims in the Middle East can "establish international Islam under the flag of the Vali Vaqih (expert cleric embodied by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei) and make the necessary preparations for the reappearance of Imam Zaman. (The Imam Zaman is the so-called 12th Imam of Shiites whose return is part of an Islamic prophecy of a Day of Judgement.)."
Iran's Friday Mass leaders expressed concern over the "lack of religious leadership" in the Egyptian and Tunisian revolts. They warned that, unlike religious leaders, political and nationalist leaders are inclined to make compromises according to their own interests.
The Iranian opposition characterizes the Arab movements as akin to Iran's anti-government protests of the past, critical of the alleged fraud in the elections. However, Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei gave a different interpretation today as he led Tehran's Mass prayers. He said Arab protesters have been enflamed by the ties that their governments have with the U.S. and other Western countries. He called those countries the chief enemies of the Islamic Republic.
Mohammad Saidi, the Qom Friday Mass leader, said the Islamic nation that was divided by Western conspiracies now has the chance to unite under the leadership of Iran's Supreme Leader.
In Tabriz, Shiraz, Esfahan, Mashhad and other major cities, the clergy echoed the Supreme Leader, describing the Arab uprising as "Islamic" and calling for Muslims in the region to unite under Ayatollah Khamenei's banner.
Iranian opposition websites have been quick to cite today's statement from Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood as proof that Iran is playing no role in the revolt.
Rejecting the idea of an "Islamic Revolution", the Muslim Brotherhood said that the Egyptian Revolution includes Muslims, Christians, and all of the country's various political viewpoints.
We'll see if they're saying the same thing once they're in power.