America's opponents in the Middle East are gloating at the financial meltdown in the United States, describing it as the divinely inspired collapse of an overstretched empire.

Hardline clerics across the region as well as representatives of U.S. opponents like Hamas and al-Qaida have described the plummeting stocks and frozen credit markets in the United States as a kind of retribution for American misdeeds.

"We are witnessing the collapse of the American Empire," Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas prime minister in the Gaza Strip, told worshippers during Friday prayers. "What's going on in America is a result of the violation of the rights of people in Palestine, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan and Muslims around the world."

Haniyeh's comments followed those made by other regional leaders who have long had an antagonistic relationship with the U.S. and appear to be enjoying the country's troubles.

However, the financial meltdown has not left the region unscathed, with stock markets across the Middle East dropping more than 10 percent in the past week.

In an interview on Tuesday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad described America's problems as a matter of chickens coming home to roost after years of exporting inflation and deficits to the rest of the world.

"Now the world capacity is full and these problems have returned to the U.S.," he said, adding "and finally they are oppressors, and systems based on oppression and unrighteous positions will not endure."

Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, a high level Iranian cleric, was blunter when he addressed worshippers on Oct. 3, describing the situation as God's punishment.

"We are happy that the U.S. economy is in anarchy and the anarchy is reaching Europe," said Jannati. "They are seeing the result of their own ugly doings and God is punishing them."

The Iranian government has said the financial crisis is not hurting Iran's economy. But the turmoil has helped drive the price of oil down more than 40 percent since record highs in July. The Iranian government relies on oil revenue for 80 percent of its budget.

Al-Qaida, America's arch-nemesis in the region, was one of the first to express satisfaction over the financial crisis in a half hour video message earlier in the month.