A year ago, our colleague, Seyed Mohammad Marandi of the University of Tehran, published an extraordinarily prescient paper, “The Islamic Republic of Iran, the United States, and the Balance of Power in the Middle East,” see here. Writing before protests in Egypt had even broken out, Seyed Mohammad explained
“In Tehran, there is a strong belief that the region is changing dramatically in favor of Hezbollah, the Palestinians, and the Resistance. The rise of an independent Turkey, whose government has a worldview very different from that of the U.S., German, British, and French governments, along with the relative decline of Saudi and Egyptian influence, signals a major shift in the regional balance of power. Saudi military incompetence during the fighting with Yemeni tribes along the border between the two countries, the general decline of the Egyptian regime in all respects, and the almost universal contempt among Arabs as a whole for the leaders of these two countries and other pro-Western Arab regimes and their corrupt elites, are seen as signs that the center cannot hold. The fact that the Iranian president and the Turkish prime minister are so popular in Arab countries, while most Arab leaders are deeply unpopular, is a sign that the region is changing.”
We were bowled over when we first read those words a year ago, and are even more bowled over to re-read them now and see how well they have held up: Mubarak is out of power and standing trial in a Cairo court, Saudi troops have shown that they are well-suited to repressing an unarmed civilian population in another country, and—contrary to conventional wisdom and social “facts” in the West—Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad remains one of the three most popular leaders in the Arab world, according to the most recent running of the Arab Public Opinion Poll, see here.
Now Mohammad has come out with another richly insightful overview of the regional condition, “Tour d’horizon: An Iranian Optic on the Middle East and Its Prospects”, which our friends at the Conflicts Forum have published, see here. Perhaps our reaction is skewed because we live in Washington, DC, where sober, reality-based commentary on the region is a rare commodity, but we think it is brilliant, and recommend it highly.
–Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett