In a single day earlier this week, the Iranian parliament dealt three blows to the presidency of Mahmud Ahmadinejad, who has become a political punching bag as the result of a continuing power struggle with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The battle has heated up over Ahmadinejad’s repeated attempts to make inroads into Khamenei’s spheres of influence.
For years he has treated it with imperious disdain. But now, with his political capital hemorrhaging, President Mahmud Ahmadinejad is being subjected to a relentless assault by Iran's parliament with the apparent approval of the country's most powerful cleric, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader.
Russia is upping the ante in the Caspian Sea with talk of bolstering its naval forces. The move reflects Moscow’s frustration over the inability of the five Caspian littoral states to define the sea’s boundaries.
Whenever cornered, Mahmud Ahmadinejad always seems to come out swinging. But Iran's notoriously abrasive president appears in danger of suffering a knockout blow over his political attachment to Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaei, a man widely seen as a threat to the country's clerical-based political system.
Armenia’s civil rights record isn’t exactly unblemished, but to thousands of Iranians eager to hear pop singers banned in Iran, the conservative South Caucasus country still ranks as a land of liberty.
An increasing number of protests in Azerbaijan in recent months has Baku viewing Iran as a possible instigator of unrest. Although Iran has some levers in Azerbaijan, such as a large Shiite population, several factors — including Russia’s potential involvement — will lead Tehran to proceed with caution in its attempts to destabilize the Azerbaijani government.
The casual visitor could not be blamed for believing Iran’s influence is ascendant in Tajikistan’s capital Dushanbe. Iranian pop music blasts from many of the city’s cafés. Iranian-made yellow taxis ferry a bevy of fashionable Iranian businessmen around downtown. Market stalls are stacked with Iranian cookies and cakes.
On first glance, it looks like an archetypal no-brainer; a large Middle Eastern country with a repressive regime and a simmering, angry protest movement.
Twice in the past fortnight, that movement -- encouraged by events in Egypt, Tunisia, and elsewhere -- has come out of hibernation to stage its first demonstrations in a year, albeit only to be met by crushing crackdowns.