Category Archives: Middle East

What Do the Iranian Election Results Mean?

Iranians are proud of their democratic elections, though we would hardly call them “democratic.” They’re rigged as much as possible against regime opponents. Still, moderates won a fairly decisive victory. It looks from early idications like Obama’s gamble is working. Don’t get me wrong, the levers of power are still in the hands of the hard-liners, but I’m not sure how long they can hang on. A good part of the youth of Iran is disaffected. Women are gaining ground.  If you look closely, you can see a parallel in our policies toward Cuba and Iran. That’s my opinion. What do you think? Please comment.

Execution of Shia in Saudi Arabia: What Are the Implications?

Saudia Arabia recently executed 47 Shia including a leading Shia cleric. Why did this happen? What are the implications? The public execution was a slap in the face to Iran. Both Iran and Saudi Arabia are busy protecting their interests in the Middle East. The ring of Shia-controlled territory in the fertile crescent from Lebanon to Iran presents a real collision for the Saudis. This has been a brewing contest for some time, but now it has become public.

Why Is Saudi Arabia in Collision with Iran?

Saudi Arabia, the head of the Sunni world, is in collision with the Shia Iranian regime and is trying to build a Sunni coalition. During WWI, the Hashomite family, which traces its descendancy from Mohammed, was the keeper of the holy places of Mecca and Medina and expected to retain this power. The Middle East would look much different today if the Hashomites had been able to stay in control, but the bedouin Saud family was able to force the Hashomites out. The Saud family is wedded to the strict Wahabi version of Islam, which gave birth to Al Quaeda and ISIS.

Iran Is in Transition

Iran is dealing with serious external problems. ISIS despises the Shia. This makes the U.S. and Israel seem less evil to Iran’s leadership. They also have to deal with Turkey and other actors. Iran’s interests are not the same as Russia’s even though they both support Assad. But more of the transition is taking place internally, particularly the demographics and rights of women. There is pent up demand for products and services Iran cannot provide for its citizens. McDonalds in Tehran?

The Czar and the Sultan: Escalating Conflict Between Russia and Turkey

Collisions between Russia and Turkey in Syria have longstanding historical precedents. Irdogan’s ambition includes rebuilding the old Ottoman empire. Shooting down the Russian warplane overlooked the fact that Putin cannot be intimidated. The conflict between Russia and Turkey is likely to escalate with further sanctions. This is essentially the Czar and the Sultan with a centuries-old history of conflict. This isn’t going away anytime soon.

Lessons from Tito’s Yugoslavia

There are lessons from the breakup of Yugoslavia after Tito’s death that help explain the chaos in Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Yemen. Tito’s dictatorship was the glue holding the system together. The current discussion is about Islamic terrorism and attempted genocide, but in the breakup after Yugoslavia, Orthodox Christian Serbs attempted genocide against Bosnian Muslims. No one really knows how many were murdered, but in Srebnica alone there are graves holding the bodies of at least 7,800 Bosnian Muslims. Without Sadam holding the system together in Iraq, there was ongoing civil war and the breakup of an artificial nation. The same thing happened with the overthrow of Gaddafi in Libya. The situation with the Assad regime in Syria is still unfolding. These are all nations that were never able to establish a sense of national identity.