Tag Archives: prediction

Iran’s Star-Crossed Regime; Pro- and Anti-Regime Hackers Accidentally Working Together?

The leadership of the Islamic Republic must feel like today emerged from the bygone era in which the rulers of Mediterranean and Near Eastern societies would only take action after careful consultation with their astrologers, for the stars aligned against them. The opposition has chosen 25 Bahman, which in most years falls on February 14th, for an annual protest which has forced the regime to crack down publicly for the second year in a row. February 14th is of course also Valentine’s Day, a holiday which the regime despises as a symbol of Western sexual mores. The Washington Post‘s Tehran correspondent, Thomas Erdbink, reported that restaurants in Tehran were heavily booked. Khamenei and his ilk are unable to prevent a dual challenge to their regime–one political, one social.

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Hypothesis: Ahmadinejad to Make Offer at UN

The past several days have seen confusion over the status of the two American hikers recently sentenced to eight years in prison in Iran for spying and illegal entry. The confusion resulted from a public claim by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that the hikers would be released soon, followed by a a few ineffectual statements unbecoming of even a faltering head of state like himself:

“OK, these two persons will be released,” Ahmadinejad said. “Is it going to be over? We do it, for example, in (a) humanitarian gesture. Is it going to solve the problems? I hope so.”

The problem for Ahmadinejad is that hope is pretty much the only thing he has left. Other elements of the Iranian regime quickly denied that the release would be so simple, and curtly stated that “no other source [i.e. the office of the president] is entitled to provide information about this case.”

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Judea, Samaria, Algeria: The Growing Threat to Israeli Democracy

In 1830, France invaded Algeria. In  1958, the French Army occupying Algeria very nearly invaded France. The Fourth Republic had, in the eyes of many French settlers in Algeria and individuals on the French right, become increasingly unwilling to deal with the Arab rebellion against French colonialism and increasingly unsympathetic to the cause of the settlers. French generals seized Algiers, launched an airborne invasion of the island of Corsica, and began drawing up plans to take Paris. Panicked French politicians ordered citizens to occupy the airports to protect democracy. The generals were sated by the extraordinary accession to power of Charles de Gaulle, who assumed new powers as President and inaugurated the Fifth Republic. What had happened, then, was essentially a coup. We should reflect on this for a moment–a military faction had forced the end of the government of a leading First World democracy. This was truly a dark moment in the history of the modern West.

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The Shifting Sands of Arab Politics

The Arab Spring has complicated relations within the Middle East. Prior to the revolts, one could point to only one real state-to-state axis—the Arabs against the Iranians. The Arab states were, despite their massive securitization, more or less united as status quo powers, seeking to keep down liberal and Islamist oppositions while making slow, or no, progress on reform. The revolts ended that consensus. Egypt and Tunisia have been forced to accelerate reforms and be at least slightly responsive to popular demands. Morocco and Jordan have forestalled revolution with moves towards constitutionalism. Some states, like Syria and Yemen, have lost what little regional influence they had, and some states, led by Saudi Arabia, are attempting to salvage what they can of the old order.

(Image via Travel-Destination-Pictures.com)

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Nakba: Hamas Says No to Fayyad

Hamas dropped a bombshell today, announcing that it “will not accept” current Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad as the new PM, and that it will also not accept him in the cabinet as a junior minister. This is an extremely bad sign for the character of the emerging unity government, and it is a step backwards for the average Palestinian. As I have written before, Fayyad is, unlike so many past Palestinian leaders, acceptable to Israel and the West. He has a reputation as a technocrat, not an ideologue, someone who will work for the interests of the Palestinians without excessive grandstanding and without being too stubborn. This is why Hamas hates him–or, more accurately, this is why Hamas resents him. They have seen how successful he has been. Without Fayyad, the Palestinian statehood bid this fall would not be taken seriously. Fayyad’s popularity with the West and Israel enabled him to secure large donations and assistance projects that have beefed up Palestine’s institutions–the court system, for instance, has been a key area of progress.

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Yemen Teeters on the Brink of War (Updated)

Yemen has spent the last week on the edge of civil war as forces opposing troubled President Ali Abdullah Saleh have taken a more forceful path. The Gulf Cooperation Council’s attempts to negotiate Saleh’s withdrawal have stalled after Saleh used a technicality to back out of the deal. The powerful Hashid tribal confederation began fighting Saleh’s Republican Guards in Sanaa after Saleh ordered the arrest of the Hashid leader, Sheikh al-Ahmar. Fighting raged for several days as the tribe’s men struggled to keep their leader out of Saleh’s hands. The tribes and government have since reached a truce, though reports suggest it is not being kept very well. The tribal confederations are a major source of power in Yemeni society, and any national leader must find a way to incorporate them into the power structure. No Yemeni leader has ever done this perfectly. Saleh’s loss of his own tribe to the opposition, regardless of that tribe’s importance, is a very bad sign for his government; that the Hashid are also one of Yemen’s largest confederations put Saleh in a critical situation.

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Odd Twist in the Case of Imprisoned Al Jazeera Reporter Dorothy Parvaz Sheds Light on Syrian and Iranian Crises

Dorothy Parvaz, an Al Jazeera reporter, was arrested several weeks ago while trying to enter Syria to cover the unrest there. Al Jazeera mounted a major publicity campaign to win her freedom–a practice that has worked in several detentions in the past. Syria only acknowledged that they were holding her several days ago. In a surprising move, Ms. Parvaz has apparently been deported to Iran.

The image al Jazeera has been running to publicize Parvaz's detention. (Al Jazeera)

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The End of Salam Fayyad?

Palestinian blogger Rafah Today has released the purported full text of the Hamas-Fatah unity agreement. Notable is the following clause:

A. Formation of the Government:

Both Fatah and Hamas agree to form a Palestinian government and to appoint the Prime Minister and Ministers in consensus between them.

In other words, the days of the Palestinian grand coalition are back. Neither faction has clarified who will fill what roles in the Cabinet, though Fatah’s current occupation of the Presidency will make Hamas eager to take the Prime Minister’s spot from Salam Fayyad. The seriousness of this cannot be understated. Fayyad is very popular with the Israelis and with Western donors, who have flooded the West Bank with great sums during his tenure and launched a number of capacity-building initiatives that have made statehood a true possibility. For instance, there has been a US-sponsored effort to establish a fully independent and final court system in Palestine, so that Palestinians would not have to rely on the Israelis to provide an appellate system.

(Al Arabiya/AFP)

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Reflections on the Killing of Osama bin Laden

The US was abuzz last night as news broke–slowly, and with swarming rumors–that al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden had been killed by American forces. Spontaneous celebrations broke out all over the country as the news was confirmed. The killing of bin Laden is a national triumph for the United States, but it is also the end of a national embarrassment, for bin Laden’s ability to avoid the intense search efforts of the US and its allies for more than a decade added to his legend in radical circles while demoralizing the American public. As many have been quick to point out, bin Laden’s death is by no means the end of al Qaeda, for it has fragmented into a number of splinter and affiliate movements. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has likely been the most dangerous al Qaeda organization for several years now, as we have seen from the many recent plots that have been tied to Yemen. The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, a pseudo-affiliate, is also undergoing a period of prominence, with some of its personnel reportedly serving as mid-level commanders in the anti-Gaddafi rebellion. We have hardly seen the last of al Qaeda and its subsidiaries. However, we must not be too cynical–this is indeed a major symbolic victory. Terrorism relies on symbolism and representation to make its attacks meaningful and draw in new recruits. Bin Laden provided this symbolism. His death does not silence his story, but it removes some of its mystique.

Arab Americans rejoice on the streets of Dearborn, Michigan, upon hearing news of bin Laden's death. (AP)

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Saleh Stepping Down in Yemen, with Immunity

News has emerged in the past several days that Yemen’s longtime president Ali Abdullah Saleh is to resign within 30 days, receive immunity for his crimes, and hand over power to a caretaker government pending elections within 60 days. Protesters are on the streets throughout Yemen today in condemnation of the deal, which has not met the wishes of many that he be tried for the many excesses of his regime, including the killings of many opponents since the uprising began. It is indeed true that the Yemeni people are denied some justice by this plan, but politics is, as they say, the art of the possible, and it should have been clear to all that Saleh would not leave willingly without immunity.

Riding off into the sunset?

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