Samstag, 20. Juni 2009

Iran: Now comes the tough part

The Supreme Leader's speech yesterday was indicative: The government, or more precisley the regime is going to crack down on the opposition if protests continue. The question hanging in the air in the last couple of hours was, whether Moussavi would eventually back down and end the protests with it. I hoped that he would not and now it looks like he is out and going to challenge the leadership. But in the face of yesterday's friday prayer by Ali Khamenei the question is: what next?

I am sure the regime is going to crackdown on the protests and if necessary by force. Over the past couple of years Iran has slowly but consistently moved away from being an Islamic Republic to a more traditional authoritarian state model. Most notably, Khamenei's credentials in religious thought have always been comparatively weak and Ahmadinejad has no religious credentials at all. More importantly, he has risen from the Pasadaran, the Revolutinary Guards and in recent years elevated more and more people with the same background into the inner circle of the regime. The clergy has been sidelined for quite a while now and the Islamic republic has turned more into a military regime, the most important power centres being in the hands of Ahmadinejad's henchmam. Given this background and the fact that Ahmadinejad's power rests on the Pasadaran and the Basij militias the regime will almost certainly use force, its their common background, their power base and the most immediately available tool. Nonetheless the regime's forces are outnumbered and in order to prevail for the regime, it will have to be a bloody crackdown.

So much rests on a wildcard that needs to be more carefully watched: on which side is the Iranian clergy going to end up? Will it back the regime and thereby even foster their own marginalisation or will they seek to reassert their position by backing the opposition and getting a stake in the future system of Iran? Let us watch closely, its the least we can do

Samstag, 13. Juni 2009

Not by a Whisker - Ahmadinejad "wins"

Ahmadinejad is back and seems to have secured a solidified majority. 62,63 percent have voted for Ahmadinejad according to the Iranian interior ministry and this result should not go by unquestioned due to a couple of reasons.
First, the main opposition candidate, Moussavi, received nearly 34 percent which is a strikingly weak result. More so, as most observers feared that the opposition vote would be split between the major opposition candidates. But taken together all other opposition candidates made up nearly 3 percent of the vote, bringing the entire opposition to just around 37 percent. With such a strong lead among the opposition candidates the most likely outcome would have been a run-off election between Moussavi and Ahmadinejad, apparently that won't happen now. The weak result is even more striking when one turns to the voter turnout: 85 percent of voters participated – a number that should not be taken literally due to the many flaws in the Iranian election law, of which one is that birth certificates are being used to identify voters – which is a relatively high turnout. Such mobilisation was also expected to benefit Moussavi and not Ahmadinejad. The numbers are, at best, confusing.
Second, given all these numbers, one wonders what went wrong. First off all, Ahmadinejad might really have had success in mobilising his base in the countryside. But I very much doubt that such a mobilising success would have taken him above sixty percent. And I doubt that all the shortfalls of Ahmadinejad's domestic policy – notably his failure to arrest the economic downturn and foster more employment – left him totally unharmed at the ballot box. Instead it seems to me that Iran today has slid even deeper into the grip of the Revolutionary Guards. It has always been an autocracy ot theocracy for that matter, but in recent years it appears that the Revolutionary Guards have really tightened their grip on the power centres of the country. Four years ago they already had manipulated the election result. Today history seems to repeat itself: Again candidates were dismissed and state institutions set to vote for the sitting president the revolutionary guards being one of them. After all, this is not a democracy that called for the elections.
Third, where does all that take us? The youth in Iran, the students of Iran do not support the current regime. They may not yet be in the majority but the tide will turn sooner or later. Meanwhile this might have been the regimes last chance to approach the growing, disenfranchised youth. Following the Chatami and the Moussavi disappointments they will almost certainly turn the back on the current regime. Iran has been poised for an overthrow of its regime for a long time and despite the legitimacy Ahmadinejad will now claim this vote has accelerated the regime's decline.

Mittwoch, 3. Juni 2009

Eritrea: Making it to the Axis of Evil?

Eritrea has come a long way since it regained independence back in 1993, when it was welcomed to the international community (and to the UN for that matter) and its president Issais Afeworki was heralded as one of "Africa's new leaders". But as time passed, all these new leaders gave reason for concern at one point or another, be it Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda or Issais Afeworki. But whereas Uganda and Ethiopia managed to stay on good terms with the international community, irrespective of what happened at home, Eritrea has become a real headache for the leaders worldwide. Not only is it still in war mode for another round of hostilities with Ethiopia, it also allegedly meddles in Somali affairs, trying to keep Ethiopia bogged down on its southern border. But with the African Union and the United Nations trying to bolster the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia that stance is becoming an increasingly grave concern. Eritrea reportedly supports the Islamist al-Shabaab movement in Somalia with weapons and cash and al-Shabaab fights the Transitional Government, which is weak yet internationally recognised and protected by an African Union peace mission. So considering the years that passed since independence, one may well take a look at the record:

In 1993 Eritrea started off as a darling of the international development community, ever since it has managed to offend nearly the entire international community; it fought one of the most sensless wars in history with Ethiopia from 1998 to 2000 (with an estimated casulaty number somewhere between 80.000 and 100.000), supported the Islamic Courts Union in Somalia, called the United States its 'arch-enemy' and now supports the al-Shabaab, while the US is debating whether to add Eritrea to the state sponsors of terrorism. Most recent news: the African Union is calling on the United Nations Security Council to impose sanctions on Eritrea for its support of al-Shabaab. If the African Union calls for sanctions on a fellow African country, something must be horribly wrong in that country (lets remember the AU found it hard to condem Mugabe). Its about time for the great and proud people of Eritrea to get a leadership that they deserve, it certainly is not Afeworki.