Iran: military likely to usurp leader's power

Large strata of the Iranian people are turning against the principles of the Islamic Revolution because of its spectacular failure in "Islamising" the Iranian people.

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Though Iran's internal crisis is ongoing and gradually increasing, it may not yield victors and losers any time soon, Houda al Husseini wrote in the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al Awsat. However, observers maintain that there is an edge to Iran's opposition because large strata of the Iranian people are turning against the principles of the Islamic Revolution. The reason for this is the Islamic Republic's spectacular failure in "Islamising" the Iranian people.

Despite the regime's three-decade-long control over cultural and media institutions, some 70 per cent of the Iranian people are said to have had enough of the revolution, and most intellectuals, especially women, are highly critical of the political system. This situation, according to Mansour Ferhengh, the first ambassador of the Islamic Republic to the UN, who broke away from the regime when the Iran-Iraq war started, reflects the extent to which the powers of the country's imams in general have dwindled. "Now, when the rule of Ali Khamenei comes to an end, I don't think we will be seeing another Supreme Leader," he said. Instead, a military figure is more likely to take over. "The position of Supreme Leader will stay, but he will merely play the role of the Friday preacher - a figurehead that is."

The quicksilver-like expansion of radical movements in Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen means one thing: the failure of US-Nato forces in eradicating these movements by the use of counter-violence alone, Saad Mehio wrote in the Dubai-based newspaper Al Khaleej. "Afghanistan stands as the most concrete illustration of this. The Taliban, which is referred to as a 'medieval' organisation, has simply stood up to the toughest military institution in history, Nato, a coalition that was formed during the Cold War to bring down a superpower." It is not so much Pathan chauvinism that beat the western powers, it is rather Nato's lack of strategy when it comes to establishing an Afghan nation-state that suits the majority of Afghans.

Take the Taliban in Pakistan as another example. The militant group would not have gained any strength or influence if the Afghan-Pakistani borders, which are populated by destitute tribes, were not marginalised while millions of dollars were funnelled to the government in Islamabad to "buy" its co-operation in the Afghan war. What is the result now? Pakistan's Taliban is just as strong as its sister network in Afghanistan. Then, after the flop in Somalia, Yemen's turn has come to form the last curve of a terrorist arch spreading across Middle Asia, the Horn of Africa and the Arab peninsula.

The end of 2009 has been identical to its beginning for Egyptian diplomacy: the year's opposite extremes brought on Cairo the same media assaults for its policy towards the neighbouring Gaza Strip, wrote Waheed Abdul Majeed in the opinion pages of the Emirati newspaper Al Ittihad.

In early 2009, Cairo was blamed for keeping the Rafah border crossing closed during the 22-day Israeli offensive in Gaza. By the year's end, Egypt's project to build a wall along the border with Gaza was under heavy fire. In both instances, Cairo was facing the same charge: taking part in the blockade enforced by Israel on one and a half million Gazans. "Although the charge is unfair, Egyptian diplomacy did not manage to refute it adequately." Cairo's mistake lies in that it took it for granted that its position regarding the Palestinian cause is crystal clear. So it does not bother to clarify it any further. The tunnels that Egypt wants to block are two-way. Besides being channels for foodstuffs and medicines, they are also routes for explosive devices and suicide belts. "Egyptian foreign policy makers should have declared in clear terms, weeks before the project was launched, what their intentions and reasons were."

"How long will Lebanon remain the only country in the world where Palestinian weapons are publicly flaunted during military parades inside the camps or in minor skirmishes between armed factions?" asked Satei Noureddine in the comment section of the Lebanese newspaper Assafir.

Since the day Palestinian weapons became a topic in the joint Lebanese-Syrian agenda, Lebanon's Palestinians took to the streets, weapons in hand, and made public declarations to the effect that their arms serve the battle against Israel as much as they constitute a pressure tool on Beirut to grant them their civil rights. "Strangely, leaders of those Palestinian factions, and even some Lebanese groups affiliated with them, still do not realise that the overwhelming majority of the Lebanese people - or at least those among them who still have fresh memories - cannot stand the presence of Palestinian weapons anymore, whether inside or outside the camps."

Dealing with the issue of Palestinian weapons would take a great deal of wisdom on the part of the Lebanese state, because the memories of those Palestinians are alive as well. * Digest compiled by Achraf A El Bahi