This commentary was published in The Guardian on 18/04/2011
When Tunisian and Egyptian protesters overthrew their dictators, many speculated that Iran would stay quiet, so as to avoid potential copycat activities at home.
In regard to Bahrain, Iran has rightly accused the US of supporting King Hamad, the despotic leader of a strategically important country that hosts the US Fifth Fleet, and has attacked it for staying silent towards Bahrain's brutal suppression of its popular uprising and the Saudi military intervention there.
By highlighting US hypocrisy in dealing with the unrest in Bahrain and Yemen and the American failure to publicly condemn the violence used by both governments in suppressing their own people, Iran has won some recognition within the region. Yet Syria clearly exposes Iran's own hypocrisy.
Iran has portrayed the Syrian pro-democracy demonstrators – unlike others in the Arab world – as "agitators" and "terrorists" hired by Israel to create disturbance and insecurity.
Iranian state media, which initially ignored the unrest in Syria, later reported the broadcast of "confessions" of a group of "Syrian agitators" who appeared in front of the Syrian state-run television cameras. "This group of people [those who confessed on TV] travelled a while ago to Israel and have been paid to send photos and videos taken from the unrest in Syria to foreigners," Iran's IRNA state news agency quoted Syrian SANA state news agency as saying.
Iran's broadcast of the coerced confessions of the Syrian protesters came as no surprise for Iranians themselves, who have witnessed TV confessions and show trials of several members of the green movement since the unrest in 2009.
Iran's reaction to the recent events in the Middle East more than anything exposes the hypocrisy of an opportunistic regime that respects the human rights neither of its own people nor of those in its neighbourhood.