Either Over, Or Starting. Crack Analysis!
The ruling regime in Iran has given their blessing to the June 12 election, and are now planning to swear in Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for another term by August. They've arrested a good portion of the leadership of the street protests, and even opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi is reportedly under a 24-hour guard and possibly house arrest. Tehran has been quieter in the past couple days in the midst of a repressive crackdown. The regime has restored order.
At least that's one reading of recent events. The other reading is that a quiet coup is in the works, as Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has control of enough members of the Assembly of Experts to oust Khamenei and call for a new election. This sense that Khamenei has lost his legitimacy among the political establishment is only bolstered by the appearance of clerics in the anti-government protests. Add to that the cycle of mourning for those who have lost their lives on the streets, which will restart the protests in waves, and the inspiring defiance of women - "When they want to hit me, I say hit!" - which really chips away at the moral authority of the regime, and you have the alternative reading that the battle for power in Iran has only begun.
Meanwhile, almost as interesting as the violence and protest in Iran is the overall effect on Iraq, where America still has 140,000 soldiers. The Shi'a clerics in the holy city of Najaf, the spiritual home of the faith, have remained silent. Iraqi leaders have expressed worry at the instability that could easily spill over the 800-mile border.
Iraqi officials say it is impossible to predict how -- and to what extent -- the unrest in Tehran will affect their country.
In interviews, several politicians said they hope the crisis will make it harder for Iran's government to meddle in Iraqi affairs in coming months. Iraq is gearing up for a national election and is asserting more control over security as U.S. troops continue to draw down.
"All their energy is diverted to how to deal with the situation," Kurdish lawmaker Tanya Gilly said. "I think this is keeping them busy with their own affairs, rather than getting involved with other people's affairs. Maybe we'll have some quiet."
A senior Shiite leader from Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Dawa party said he was concerned because Iran has a history of fueling conflicts abroad to divert attention from its domestic problems.
"Iranian influence in Iraq has many faces," said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.
Iraq has enough violence and sectarian struggle of their own to contend with, but this adds a layer of worry, for unrest in Iran can easily destabilize a region where America already fights two other wars.