One year ago, as Iranians headed to the polls for their Presidential election, few could have anticipated the dramatic events that would unfold in the days and weeks to follow. Allegations of massive electoral fraud and interference by the regime erupted into street demonstrations of a proportion not seen since the 1979 Iranian revolution. Western observers, stunned by the appearance of popular Iranian discontent with the regime, placed huge hopes in the newly emerged opposition Green Movement, anticipating the imminent collapse of the regime.
Iraq this week entered a new period of political jockeying.With former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi’s multi-sectarian Iraqiya coalition eking out a slim plurality of the votes over Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s nationalist State of Law coalition, each bloc has spent the week vying to bring in new members in order to reach the 163 seats required to form a government.The political maneuvering will most likely intensify in the weeks and months ahead, but the fact that such jockeying has so far been confined to the political arena bodes positively for the Iraqi political system’s stability .Besides the difficult process of forming a government, Iraq faces a slate of long-deferred challenges, such as the status of Kirkuk, Sunni re-integration, and the controversial oil law.But the reality is that these obstacles can only be surmounted by Iraqis themselves. In President Obama’s words, “The future of Iraq belongs to the people of Iraq.”
After a long impasse, Iraqi politics took a significant step forward on Sunday with the Iraqi parliament’s passage of a new election law.Resolution of the election issue underscores how moving forward in Iraq
depends upon political decisions by Iraqi leaders, a point emphasized
by President Obama in his speech at Camp Lejeune, when he stated that
the “the long-term solution in Iraq must be political – not military.” While Ambassador to Iraq Christopher Hill will continue to prod Iraq’s
political leaders to reconcile, such encouragement will only be
effective as long as it occurs against the backdrop of U.S. withdrawal.
Iran erupted this weekend following claims from the regime that President Ahmadinejad had been overwhelming reelected. Supporters of the main opposition candidate, former Prime Minister Mir Hussein Moussavi, quickly took to the streets in protest. The regime has cracked down brutally, detained many opposition leaders, placed Moussavi under watch, evicted and detained foreign journalists, and attempted to block protestors ability to communicate and organize by blocking text messaging and internet access.