- The Washington Times - Friday, August 4, 2006

TEHRAN — Lurid headlines and images in the Iranian press from the war in Lebanon are drawing huge crowds to newspaper kiosks dotting the wide boulevards of Tehran.

Despite tensions between Iran and the Arab world that date back to the 7th century, when Arab armies occupied Persian Iran, the war has provoked widespread sympathies for fellow Shi’ite Muslims in southern Lebanon.

“I feel a lot of sympathy for the poor Lebanese,” said Samira Vaziri, a 27-year old graphic designer. “But I don’t think that we should get involved in this war.”

The Iranian press’ tone is overwhelmingly anti-Israeli and anti-Western, with inaction by Arab governments also getting criticism.

The United States says Iran is the main military and financial backer of Hezbollah.

“5 Merkava tanks destroyed as Hezbollah deals Israel defeat across 4 axes” was Wednesday’s top headline in the hard-line Kayhan daily.

Some of the more radical, front-page offerings are to be found among the ranks of the government-owned press.

The Ya Lesarat-e Hossein weekly owned by the Iranian militant group Ansar-e Hezbollah declared: “Hezbollah’s first attack sends 200,000 Israelis bolting into rat-holes.”

Yesterday, about 100 people threw stones and a firebomb at the British Embassy in Tehran, damaging the building, the Associated Press reported. No one was hurt.

Iranian-Arab relations are rapidly deteriorating as the Israeli campaign against Hezbollah enters its fourth week with no sign of a diplomatic breakthrough.

Iranian diplomats have interpreted the Arab World’s silence toward the ongoing fighting in Lebanon as evidence that it has ganged-up with Washington and Tel Aviv against Tehran.

Kayhan — a government-aligned newspaper preferred by analysts wishing to keep abreast of the leadership’s thinking — has argued that “Saudi Arabia’s tendency to side with America and the Zionist regime is based on a normalization of relations with Tel Aviv.”

Stories on Iran’s 24-hour news channel are being interspersed with montages of Hezbollah military operations, Lebanese bombing victims and shots of the Golden Dome of the Rock mosque in Jerusalem, a rallying point for Muslims worldwide.

In the first week of the conflict, Iran began a campaign on state-controlled media urging consumers to stop buying ‘Zionist’ products, ranging from Pepsi to Marks and Spencer.

One infomercial stated that “Pepsi stands for ‘pay each penny to save Israel’” before going on to state that “Zionists are the biggest shareholders in the soft drinks industry, and each year they make billions of dollars for their colonialist aims.”

Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has publicly advocated the destruction of Israel.

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