The Middle East is a tinderbox. Anyone who denies it simply does not understand the challenges being faced.
The "World Watch" for the Middle East this week starts in Iran. The feud between the legislative and executive branches of the Islamic Republic has come to the forefront. One of the Iranian President's top lieutentants, Saeed Mortazavi, was detained due to his role in the events after the 2009 elections. He had continued to be in Government, recently having been appointed by the Iranian President to run the Iranian Equivalent of the Social Security Administration. He was apparently bailed as the investigations continue. What I found shocking was how he declared his allegiance to Khameini, the Supreme Leader of the Country and not to the Country.
This was also a week that saw the Labor Minister in Ahmadinejad's Government impeached. While in Parliament (the Majlis) to speak up for his Minister, he accused the brother of the Speaker, Ali Larijani, of corruption. He was cut off by the Speaker and was not allowed to speak again. The deputies subsequently decided by overwhelming margins to kick the minister out. I found it especially striking how Ahmadinjead was not referred to as the "President" but as "the Chief of the Executive Branch". The elections, though, seem to be gathering pace as Ahmadinejad's Chief of Staff, Mashai, seems to be at the forefront of the campaign to replace him.
What is heartbreaking to see is the utter economic mismanagement of the Country. The sanctions have been effective. New sanctions that have just been announced have caused major challenges. Iran is as bellicose as ever though. Khameini, the Supreme Leader, made a speech this past week before Iranian Air Force Commanders rejecting direct negotations with the United States. He brought up the 1953 coup and underscored some of the continued mistrust that has ensued. What he fails to understand, though, is that there needs to be a sense of courage. He talked about being a revolutionary and speaking frankly. Yet, he seems not to be aware at all of the plight of ordinary Iranians. Watching the Oscar Winning Film, A Separation, in and of itself underscored the plight of ordinary Iranians so brilliantly potrayed which I happened to finally see this past week-end. He seems to have this notion that Iran does not need the World. Ordinary Iranians have to deal with 121 Percent (one hundred 21 percent) inflation rate and a rash of other challenges--including an environment that continues to get worst daily. As this occurs, repression of dissent is even more acute with a rash of arrests to stifle dissent. I was laughing when Ahmadinjead offered Egypt a credit line when the Iranian Economy itself is bleeding as a result of his misguided economic policies.
Beyond Iran, there is Egypt. Protests are continuing and are quite worrisome. Tunisia has become increasingly unstable due to the assassination of an opposiition leader in front of his house. Libya continues to be unstable. There are bombing in Iraq all the time as Maliki continues his consolidation campaign. The biggest problem, though, continues to be Syria.
Syria is in the midst of a very bloody civil war. I have repeatedly written about how Assad is on his last leg. But, this war has gone on for two years. Where Assad is getting arms to replenish his Army is anyone's guess. The reports I have seen coming out of Syria is heartbreaking. I can't forget the wounded 9 year old in Aleppo who was injured while playing football (soccer)> I can't forget the reports by Sky News on a Syrian Refugee family who could not afford the basic rudimentary requirements. Not withstanding all the known facts, all I know is this: Because Damascus is under siege, it will only be a matter of time--sooner than later. What is tragic is how many more have to die before this is a reality. The sense of lawlessness would continue for a very long time after Assad is relegated to the dustbin of history. The Sky News report from Aleppo about gangs being rampant in the City is just one example of the prevailing problems post-Assad that would present some profound challenges.
I will be keen to see what President Obama achieves as he travels to Israel, Palestine & Jordan. I called it Palestine becuase the UN has decided to call it that. For all intent and purpose, the Peace Process that began with Oslo in 2003 has died as Israel has continued onward with its's annexation and settlement policies despite all the UN resolutiosn. When Bibi receive his next to the last mandate to form Isreal's Government, I wrote about my hope that he would be as bold as Menachim Begin was. There were certainly some interesting photo-ops undertaken. But those efforts have not gotten anywhere. Whether President Obama is able to do anything is an open question for me.
I have to ask the question: Will the Middle East ever get a break?
Also released to the "Daily Outsiders' http://www.outsiderviews.com Feburary 9, 2013..All Rights Reserved under creative commons license