Thursday, January 27, 2011

Last week's pre-blog blog.

Exciting stuff...

In the past week we’ve seen the Sudan vote to split into two countries, a process that seems to have been relatively peaceful and one that could bring a much needed modicum of stability to east Africa.

Tunisia has been undergoing an unprecedented change in leadership, one of the most significant ones in decades for the greater Middle East, as it disrupts the continuity of succession. This is made all the more dramatic by the fact that is seems to have been triggered by an incident of protest through self-immolation, an act that is almost unheard of in the Arab world. Two cases of self immolation in Tunisia have been followed by several more acts done in solidarity in Algeria and Egypt. The implications of the political upheaval in Tunisia are being watched with particular interest in Egypt, where a similarly unhappy populace deals with corruption, despotism, unemployment, and general unhappiness.

Another interesting issue, the International Court of Justice is laying out their tribunal that will point fingers for the 2005 assassination of Lebanese president Rafik Hariri. Rumor has it that is will not just name Syrian president Bashir Assad, but will also lay a substantial amount of blame on Iran. The repercussions of this, by itself might not be all that significant, but combined with the instability in both Lebanon and Iran this is one more log on a fire that might be getting very hot soon.

Oh, and by the way, the Lebanese government just collapsed.
Hezbollah’s political wing pulled out of parlament, leaving the government constitutionally unable to function. Saad Hariri, the current president (and son of the assassinated former president) is being pressured to denounce the ICJ tribunal’s findings regarding his father’s assassination (somethingthat he’s not likely to do), and the only person who can restore legitimate functionality to the Lebanese government is Walid Jumblatt, a savvy Druze politician whose decision will speak volumes about which way the political winds are blowing.

Meanwhile in Iran, the Stuxnet computer virus has pushed their nuclear ambitions back anywhere from 2-5 years. Their nuclear program was never as good as they, or Israel, wanted everyone to think, but their hopes for establishing a reputation as a nuclear power are now pretty much shot. The US sanctions have wreaked havoc on their economy, and the Islamic Republic’s grip on power and legitimacy has been reshuffling ever since the 2009 election controversy.

And then there’s Israel and Palestine. The recent rightward swing in Israeli politics has started to come apart at the seams – Avigdor Leiberman’s hyper-nationalist push for loyalty oaths and orthodox-control over Jewish identity have begun to cause a backlash, Ehud Barak’s incompetence has led him and his cronies to break away from the Labor party as a preemptive measure against removal from
leadership, and Netanyahu…oy.

(this is where I stopped writing last week)

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