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Monday 21 Aug 2017 | 09:27 | SYDNEY
Monday 21 Aug 2017 | 09:27 | SYDNEY

Middle East in 2010 (in two minutes)

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13 January 2010 10:09

If there is one thing I've learned from following, living in and writing about the Middle East as an Australian it is that, while many of my countrymen say they find the region fascinating, it is fair to say most Australians believe it to be of peripheral concern despite our substantial economic interests and the fact that we seem to continually send the ADF there.

So, to fit in with the average Australian's attention span for all things Middle Eastern, I'll try to write a series of short posts offering my views on what is likely to happen in certain countries in the region this year. I feel safe in offering such predictions because the opaque decision-making process of many of the actors, the number and nature of internal and external pressures facing states, and the regional rivalries and biases that often colour decision-making all mean that few if any outside observers get it right.    
 
Iran will continue to concentrate minds in the US in particular, but I can't see much policy headway being made and the situation at the end of the year will be little different from now. A sputtering domestic resistance movement may survive but will gradually lose momentum or split, but either way is not likely to threaten the regime's survival. I have said since the disputed elections last year that the election was not as pivotal as some people hoped or believed. The regime has a very tight grip on its security forces, and the opposition, while persistent, lacks a unifying vision or even a centralised leadership. This interesting post points to the challenges facing the Iranian protest movement.
 
On the nuclear issue, Iran will continue to obfuscate, earn the ire of the West and of the IAEA, but continue to develop a nuclear capability. Its ability to play on divisions among the Security Council's permanent five members means multilateral sanctions will be tightened again but without threatening regime survival. Iran has already shown that it makes no concessions regarding its nuclear program unless it is caught red-handed and faces a unified front. The absence of the latter means that even getting caught red-handed is no guarantee of significant Iranian concessions. 
 
Iran's neighbours will continue to view it with suspicion, courtesy of a complex mix of anti-Shi'a/anti-Persian bias and good reason. The Yemeni Government (along with a few others) will continue to accuse Iran of being in cahoots with the al-Houthi movement in order to distract attention from the causes of the conflict, and to attract aid by linking the al-Houthis with Iran. This report, linked to the Saudi-owned Sharq al-Awsat newspaper, is a good example of such non-specific accusations designed to influence people's views of the conflict. 

Iran's close relationship with Hizbullah will remain the major legitimate claim about Iranian aspirations for regional influence. Iraq's elections will assist in gauging to what degree Shi'a political parties which have retained a respectful distance from Tehran (such as ad-Da'wa) can attract voters, compared to the more pro-Iranian political actors.

Photo by Flickr user TheTallest, used under a Creative Commons license.

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