x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Iran gloats over English riots, chastises politicians

The authoritarian regime in Tehran, long at odds with the Britain, is gloating over the scenes of anarchy, looting and arson on the streets of London and other English cities.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, has condemned what he termed the savage clampdown by English police on rampaging youths and urged the UN Security Council to take immediate action.

"British politicians should look to help their own people instead of invading Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya to plunder their oil," Mr Ahmadinejad said yesterday.

"Even if one hundredth of these crimes were to happen in countries opposed to the West, the UN and other

organisations claiming to defend human rights would vehemently decry it."

While David Cameron, the British prime minister, has called the mayhem in England "criminality, pure and simple", Mr Ahmadinejad portrayed it as peaceful protests brutally suppressed by police.

Television footage of riot police battling to quell England's worst civil unrest in 30 years has led news coverage in countries that London accuses of human-rights abuses, giving their governments a welcome opportunity to strike back.

The authoritarian regime in Tehran, long at odds with Britain, has led the outcry, gloating over the scenes of anarchy, looting and arson on the streets of London and other English cities.

Conservative newspapers in Tehran have variously blamed the violence on human-rights violations, racism, the rise of student tuition fees and even the press phone-hacking scandal.

In Libya, where Britain is involved in a military campaign against Col Muammar Qaddafi's regime, a government spokesman declared Mr Cameron should step down in the face of the "massive popular

protests".

In Syria, where Britain has said the President Bashar Al Assad has lost legitimacy by killing demonstrators, state television repeatedly showed footage of British policemen chasing and knocking a man down.

Elsewhere in the Middle East, coverage of Britain's civil unrest has been far more balanced, serious and less self-serving. One Egyptian activist criticised the rioters and those likening the turbulence in Britain to the Arab Spring.

Mosa'ab Elshamy wrote on Twitter: "Egyptians and Tunisians took revenge for Khaled Said [a victim of police brutality under the Mubarak regime] and [the Tunisian street vendor Mohamad] Boazizi by peacefully toppling their murdering regimes, not stealing DVD players."

An editorial in yesterday's English-language Saudi daily, Arab News, said: "The British rioters have no political objectives - no objectives at all other than destruction and theft. This is anarchy, pure and simple." It added: "Shocking though the images [from Britain] are, any notion that this is some sort of revolution should be instantly dismissed."

Hardline Iranian media begged to differ. An announcer on state television even described the anarchy in Britain as a "civil war".

A commentary in Iran's Resalat newspaper claimed that "the violence and continued chaos in the UK are the result of factors like human-rights violations in the country, prejudice against immigrants and coloured people, incidents like the Murdoch scandals and the country's critical economic conditions".

A leading hardline Iranian MP declared on Tuesday that Tehran was ready to send a group of experts to Britain to investigate "human-rights violations" there and interview "political detainees".

Iran's indulgence in such schadenfreude is not surprising, given its history of poor relations with London. Tehran was infuriated this year by British support for the appointment of a UN special rapporteur to investigate human-rights abuses in Iran.

Two summers ago, Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, accused the "evil British government" of stirring up the huge anti-government street demonstrations that convulsed Tehran in the wake of a fiercely disputed presidential election.

The irony of Tehran's holier-than-thou stance against Britain now will not be lost on the hundreds of thousands of Iranians who protested peacefully against Mr Ahmadinejad's controversial re-election.

Their pro-democracy uprising, which pre-dated the Arab Spring, was brutally crushed. Scores were killed and thousands detained. According to human-rights organisation. there were also widespread allegations of prisoners being tortured.

Iran denigrated the protestors as "rioters": now it is calling British rioters "protesters".

Iranian opposition groups and reformist newspapers have made clear they do not support the official regime response to the turmoil in Britain.

While most in the Middle East do not share the Iranian regime's glee over the crisis in Britain, some have made wry comments on London's predicament. Reuters quoted an unnamed Egyptian official ironically suggesting that Egypt should send non-governmental to London to monitor the

situation: Western NGOs were present during February's historic protests in Cairo's Tahrir Square.

And one Gulf commentator tweeted: "It must be weird for Londoners to read advisories from foreign countries about traveling to the UK: usually it's the other way around."

mtheodoulou@thenational.ae