The Queen is not a Supreme Leader – thank god

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran, 4 April
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has not been seen for eight days

England now has a new royal couple to watch and the sun is finally shinning in Reno, I knew the sun would shine again, there are somethings like royal weddings and sunshine we can trust – right?  It is not the same with everything and now that we can stop waiting for the wedding and watching the NFL draft it is time to check in again with the rest of world and go back to stressing over the things we cannot predict with certainty.

In Libya, the Colonel would like to make peace, or at least so he is claiming; he is also said to be giving his troops Viagra to commit unspeakable and despicable acts.  In Yemen and Syria the presidents would not like to make peace, no word on what incentives they are offering to soldiers for continued loyalty, but they continue to offer bullets for those who are protesting..  Egypt is getting back into the spotlight, in the Arab world, if not here; first it is possible that Mubarak will be executed – not the kind of thing that would encourage leaders in other Arab countries to follow his example and resign.  The Muslim Brotherhood has officially formed a political party and is becoming increasingly more visible.  But the real news for the Arab press is the change in Egyptian policy; Egypt is being credited with brokering the Hamas-Fatah agreement; Egypt is also opening its border crossing with Gaza and warning Israel not to interfere.  All of the Arab world sees this as a major switch in policy and a return to the “Arab fold.”  The previous policy favored the United States and Israeli agendas, the changes being made are in direct opposition to those agendas.  If leadership should change in Libya, Syria and Yemen there could conceivably be a complete change in regional policy and a closer unity among the Arab states.

Further along on the Persian Gulf, in Iran they are celebrating National Persian Gulf Day; Iran is claiming the Gulf has always and will always belong to Iran and not to any Arab state or states, who cannot even control their own people, according to General Hassan Firouzabadi, the chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces.  However, there is other news from Iran that is more interesting and it has long term potential to significantly change alliances and policies in the region.

President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is missing; he has not been in his office, attended cabinet meetings or any other official function in 8 days apparently as a protest.  Ahmadinejad had fired his intelligence minister, but Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei did not agree with his actions and reinstated the minister.  So, the minister has been to the cabinet meetings, but the president has not.  No one seems to know what all of this means, except there is a serious disagreement about who has the authority to hire and fire cabinet ministers. To a naive outsider, there appears to be two possible outcomes; the Ayatollah concedes and Ahmadinejad begins to exercise greater authority, which would include foreign policy among other things.  In the second possibility, Ahmadinejad, concedes and simply does what he is told or resigns so that a more compliant president can be found.  Although it might not mean a change in policy, depending on who has been calling the shots up to this point – does Ahmadinejad speak for himself and make policy in Iran, or does he simply say what the Ayatollah tells him to say?

However, a change could have a major impact on the rest of the region.  Although the Iranian press has been insistent in claiming the Zionist and the capitalists are responsible for the unrest in Syria (and other places), the Arab world sees Iran as more of a factor than those two; Iran’s claim to the Gulf, its Shiite government and its nuclear policy are all threatening to Arab regimes.  Any change in Iran’s role or policy would affect the balance of power in Lebanon, Syria and Palestine at a minimum.

This is why I liked the royals and their wedding pageantry, it is symbolic of Britain’s stability and predictability.  The queen is not going to override the prime minister on appointments or policy; and even when people gather in the streets to protest the sitting government or the monarchy – and they do gather and protest – they will not be shoot or imprisoned.  And we will not get up tomorrow morning whether the United States and Britain are allies. I am glad we got a respite, because the Middle East causes me lots of anxiety, uncertainty is unsettling and well, uncertain.


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April 2011
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