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Are Arab revolutions over or only just beginning?

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600 political and religious leaders from 80 countries representing the major branches of Islam, from the most reactionary to the most progressive, from the most orthodox to the most mystical, met in Tehran to attend the first International Conference on Islamic awakening.

Among the participants were a number of well-known Arab revolutionaries who had traveled to Tehran in recent years to study the model of a successful revolution before launching one in their own country.

The aim of the conference, organized at the initiative of the Islamic Republic of Iran, was to compare the analyses of the various Arab revolutions. Beyond the ritual calls for unity and the expressions of politeness, the discussion revealed profound differences in the interpretation of the events and of their future prospects.

In his opening speech, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Supreme Leader of Islamic Revolution, discarded the reading of the "Arab Spring" according to which the masses wanted to embrace the Western models of political system and capitalist economy. Instead, he described the revolt as the beginning of a long revolutionary process to free the people of North Africa and the Middle East from the yoke of Western colonialism, to undertake an in-depth re-hauling of society and to forge a new Islamic civilization. He warned against the pitfalls that the imperialist powers would not fail to set up along this road and invited participants to prepare to face them as of now, especially by preserving the unity of the Muslim nation.

If this analysis was unsurprisingly endorsed by certain speakers, such as Hezbollah Deputy Secretary-General Sheikh Naim Kassem and the Secretary General of Palestinian Islamic Jihad Ramadan Abdullah, others defended a very different viewpoint. While all participants agreed that these events do not constitute a "Spring of Western liberalism," but an anti-imperialist movement, their opinions were divided as to its future.

Thus, the representative of Al-Azhar University in Cairo hailed the victory of the Egyptian youth on Tahrir Square and the fall of dictator Hosni Mubarak. He recalled his university’s support for the action of the young revolutionaries, but referred to it as something already completed. Not a word about the aspirations of the youth - who had recently stormed the Israeli Embassy - to break with U.S. tutelage and to repeal the Camp David Accords.

Or again, the intervention by the chief of the Cyrenaica tribe recalling the heroic struggle of Omar al-Muktar against Italian colonization and denouncing the foreign intervention in his country, only to rejoice over the overthrow of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi by ... NATO. All this beneath the pensive portrait of Imam Khomeini, who didn’t need the Alliance to overthrow the Shah Reza Palehvi.

The deliberations continue today and will be closed by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

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