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Band aid weeks in the Middle East


By Tim Watkin

Published: 6:25PM Wednesday July 01, 2009

Looking to the Middle East at the moment, it seems as if the region is drawing breath. The revolution on the streets of Iran seems to have run its course, for the moment, with the Guardian Council certifying the results of the country's stolen election.

American troops are starting their pull out of Iraq after years mired in failure, followed by dogged stabilisation. The news stories are all about endings. Truth is, nothing is resolved in either country; and where unresolved questions of power remain there remains the potential for serious violence. Nothing is over yet.

In Iran, news has slowed to a trickle after the crackdown by police and government militia. At the same time the challenge to the establishment has switched from the streets of Tehran to the backrooms of Qom, the Shia holy city. It's there that the clerics are battling for the future of Iran, as Iranian-American author Reza Aslan made clear on Q+A on Sunday.

Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani is the head of the Assembly of Experts, the body that elects Iran's Supreme Leader. Unlike the cardinals who in Catholic tradition elect each new pope, the Assembly of Experts also has the power to remove Supreme Leaders, and Rafsanjani is reportedly working behind the scenes to depose Ayatollah Khamenei.

The website Tehran has been providing great coverage of the uprising, and reports that the conservative clerics are split. Aslan spoke of the same "fissures", claiming that reform will come to the Islamic republic on way or another. Even the Iranian revolution of 1979 played out over months, with ebbs and flows. So a week's calm now is no indicator of a final outcome.

What seems to be agreed is that Khamenei is compromised. He ratified the election before the Guardian Council, Iran's election watchdog, and warned protesters off the street. In doing so he sided with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and made himself a mere partisan player, rather than the divinely-inspired leader.

Next door in Iraq, US troops are handing over control of Iraqi cities to local forces. Even President Obama is predicting "difficult days" ahead. The Iraqi security forces are being asked to step up and maintain order. They've been asked to do that before, but have hardly made a success of that mission. Tom Ricks, one of the best Iraq watchers in the US media, spells it out succinctly.

The US surge has succeeded tactically, in that settled things down and created time for political reform. But it's failed strategically because that reform has never come. Iranian politicians are as divided as ever over how to divide oil revenues, how to share power and what kind of political structure to build.

In both countries these are the band-aid weeks. But the band-aids have to come off eventually and the old wounds will be exposed once more. In both countries that could mean bloodshed. In Iran, however, there is hope yet that whatever comes next, the complaints of the people may still be heard.

The tweets coming out of Iran reported that, after the Guardian Council confirmed the decidedly dodgy election results, the cries of Allah O Akbar (God is Great) were louder than ever as people cried from their rooftops, safe (or relatively safe) under the cover of darkness. While those voices remain, there is hope for change. The question then becomes, what kind of change it will be.

Current affairs and culture website Pundit 

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  • daved said on 2012-11-04 @ 11:01 NZDT: Report abusive post

    Saddly enough we seem to be really living in another world not the real New Zealand. We are good at farming and the industries relating to this industry. We need to become the best in the word instead of focusing on 1.5 million people who live in Auckland and their housing problems. Be proud we are different to countries like China and America. Our inovation relating to farming and horicuture is sort by the world. We are inovative, clever and pioneers. Not apprieciate so we leave!!

  • 4awinner said on 2012-05-27 @ 09:47 NZDT: Report abusive post

    Retirement. Crazy raising the age! Why because this means more unemployment for the new generation. What is a better investment giving young people the dole or retiries a pension. Pension recievers do not ushally cost the country in crime and all the othe social woes that sucks this cuontry dry. BECAUSE young people NEED a job and future. We have 4 children in Australia all doing very well. The wages give them hope for the future which New Zealand could not but they still love this country.

  • Yady said on 2011-11-28 @ 09:41 NZDT: Report abusive post

    the country is full of complacent morons who love to complain but dont get of there arse to vote.... cant beleive where this country is headed, where just like the yanks, maybe worse because we think we are better than them....shame shame shame..... who can blame us for moving to aussie... the nz government is for the nz rich list, they dont care about the poor..... shame shame shame..... and the media should be held accountable.... they done this... i want to hear the tea tapes!

  • Yady said on 2011-11-28 @ 09:35 NZDT: Report abusive post

    those who didn't vote should be ashamed of themselves.... this country is full of moaning couch potatoes..... just what national needed... shame shame shame....

  • cheekychick said on 2011-11-27 @ 10:03 NZDT: Report abusive post

    Michelle Boag calling Winston names is disgusting and offensive Jan

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