For those worried over its nuclear ambitions,
Until 2009, the regime had grown steadily stronger and more assertive. The rise in oil prices from
Things also went well for
In 2009, things took a sharp turn south. The financial crisis and global recession burst the oil-price balloon. A government grown used to windfall profits found itself with a lot less revenue. In June, its ally
Even the recent shift in the balance of power within the
But the most frightening problems are at home. In June, presidential balloting alternated between tragedy and farce as a nakedly rigged election provoked confrontation in the streets. Crucially, Ayatollah Khamenei fundamentally compromised his domestic authority by siding publicly with an increasingly unpopular government. Replacing a president is a problem. Replacing a supreme leader threatens the entire show.
Adding to the anxiety, the recent death and funeral of Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri -- a vocal critic of
Ahmadinejad and Iranian state officials proved willing to defy
How else to explain the sudden Iranian decision in December to send troops into
The move never had any impact on oil production. It was probably intended to accomplish three goals.
Second, Ahmadinejad's government may have hoped to divert attention from opposition protests at home by triggering a manageable confrontation abroad. The size of the Montazeri funeral protests suggests that's unlikely to work.
Most importantly, the regime probably wanted to show the world that adversity has not weakened its nerve. As threats of sanctions grow louder, we'll see more such flashes of defiance. That's why three American hikers charged with illegal entry into Iranian territory will likely face a trial and tough sentences instead of early release. That's why
It's also why Ahmadinejad made a show on
And that's why 2010 will be a year of intensified confrontation. In the past few days, the British and American governments have agreed that nuclear negotiations have been given long enough to succeed, and that it's time for a "two-track approach," one that includes both more diplomacy and additional sanctions. It will be spring before initial sanctions are in place.
Sanctions won't be tough enough to force
Iran Sacrifices Its Future
I have just read about a new high-water mark in the persecution of intellectuals. Or just the intelligent. For setting it, the world can thank Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and his clerical keepers, notable among them the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
Tension Simmers in Iran
Continued post-election protests in Iran identify either a pre-revolutionary situation or that condition which the French call 'fin de regime' -- political decadence suggesting that the end may be near, but might also be very bad. Recent events in Iran resemble those that led up to the revolution that compelled the Shah to flee Iran in 1979 and were followed by the creation of the Islamic Republic. The question is what will the outcpome be this time and what impact it will have on stability in the Middle East
Voting Present on Iran
Victor Davis Hanson
Instead of complying with international requests to stand down, Iran has decided to step up efforts to enrich uranium, which, despite the government's denial, is all but certainly intended for a bomb. Here's why ...
New Palestinian Statehood Push and Nuclear Threat to Israel
Louis R. Beres
The Palestinian Authority still makes its aggressive intentions plain. On its official emblem, Israel is covered with an Arab Keffiyah headdress, next to a Kalashnikov rifle, and a picture of Yasser Arafat.
U.S. Must Remain Active Diplomatic Player in Iraq
Henry A. Kissinger
So far, the Obama administration has recoiled from discussing Iraq's geo-strategic significance and especially America's relation to it. Yet while Iraq is being exorcised from our debate, its reality is bound to obtrude itself on our consciousness. America's withdrawal from Iraq will not diminish the geo-strategic importance of the country even as it alters the context of it.
Upcoming Iraqi Elections - Political Tremors
Brett H. McGurk
Recent news that Sunni candidates were banned from upcoming Iraqi elections has focused attention on that March 7 vote -- a crucial election for a new government to serve through 2014. Much is at stake, and the United States will have to maneuver carefully, supporting but not overtly interfering with the vote, cabinet formation, and then a new Iraqi government.
Mind of Martyr: How to Deradicalize Islamist Extremists
Is it possible to deradicalize terrorists and their potential recruits? Saudi Arabia, a pioneer in terrorism prevention and rehabilitation, claims that it is. And yet so far, the Saudis have shared very little information about their program's successes and failures.
(C) 2010 Ian Bremmer