Mahmoud Ahmadinejad inspecting the Natanz nuclear plant in central Iran (Photo: Reuters)
Autocrats vs. Despots
Steve Coll of the New Yorker asks why the Arab League member states are really so interested in intervention in Syria.
In the case of Syria, the League’s mainly Sunni Muslim-led members are motivated largely by their fear of Iran, which is mostly Shiite. Iran uses its alliance with Assad’s regime to maintain a land bridge to its radical ally Hezbollah, in Lebanon. If Assad falls, Iran will be weakened, a goal that is particularly compelling for the Gulf monarchies, which live in Iran’s shadow across the Persian Gulf and worry about its export of Shia revolution to their own soil.
Why the Egyptian Military Fears a Captain’s Revolt
Patrick Galey of Foreign Policy writes that recent steps taken by Egypt’s military rulers reflect a desire to keep its middle ranks happy.
Faced with a population chafing under military rule, an angry superpower ally, and a restive officer corps, it’s not easy being an Egyptian general these days. As a result, the SCAF’s strategy seems to be to hand power over to a civilian government that will preserve its privileges—and pray that everything doesn’t come crashing down before then.
Mission impossible? U.S. wants sanctions to hurt only Iran
Tabassum Zakaria and Arshad Mohammed of Reuters look at the difficulties of effectively implementing the latest round of sanctions against the Islamic republic.
Yet even before the new sanctions go into effect, evidence is mounting that Western pressure may be hitting some of the wrong targets. Shipments of grain to Iran, exempt from the sanctions like other humanitarian goods, have been held up because of financial restrictions on Iranian banks that would handle the transactions. If previous sanctions efforts elsewhere are any guide, Iran’s elites will find ways to insulate themselves from economic pain imposed from outside.
The Maghreb’s Modern Islamists
Writing for Project Syndicate, Moha Ennaji looks at the challenges facing the new Islamist rulers in northwestern Africa.
Islamist parties will now have enormous influence on economic policy, after decades of official separation of mosque and state. Islamic banking, for example, may soon be introduced, though some local and foreign investors argue that sharia regulations could drive away much-needed foreign investment. There are also concerns about inexperienced Islamist officials’ ability to run finance ministries.