The Iranian Uprising Will Bring About A Different Middle East

Over the past few weeks I've been thinking about all the young web-savvy future political leaders in less than free countries around the world.   I think about them as they read Nico Pitney, watch the youtube videos, see this incredible uprising unfold on line and on their televisions, and wonder how the inspiration of seeing the Iranian people rise up against a repressive regime will inspire their own future political development.  What is happening Iran has become a powerful teachable moment for emerging and future leaders throughout the world, one that I truly believe will give pro-democracy forces strength and inspiration in their own battles to forge better, more open societies.  After the terribly disapointing age of Bush the issue of political freedom has been thrust back, inconveniently for some, inspritationally for others, on to the global stage in a way that will be hard to for the nations of the world to shake off in the years ahead.

The Times has an interesting story about the impact of the uprising in the Middle East.  I excerpt a passage:

The Iranian standoff may also serve as a cautionary tale for Arab leaders who have watched as modern technology, like the Internet, social networking sites and cellphones, has yet again undermined the ability of authoritarian states to control access to and distribution of information.

But the cultural and social differences between Iran and Arab states are so great, there was no sense that leaders feared their citizens would be inspired to rise up. Iran is an important and influential nation in the Middle East, but it is also distant from the Sunni Arab street as a majority Persian country with a majority Shiite population.

“A lot of young people in the Arab world would love to see something like that, but the kind of civil society they have makes it much more natural for this to happen in Iran than in a place like Egypt or Saudi Arabia,” said Ahmed al-Omran, a college student in Saudi Arabia and author of the popular blog saudijeans.org.

Moreover, the dramatic video of Iranians being beaten or shot by Basijis has done incalculable damage to Iran’s image as the region’s most religiously pure and populist state. Iran’s allies in the region, including Syria, as well as Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Hamas movement in the Palestinian territories, also seem likely to suffer a blow to their credibility, and perhaps to their financing, if the election crisis is resolved with heavy suppression or an extended standoff with the opposition, analysts said.

One gauge of how Arab leaders are reacting to the Iran crisis is their silence. Officials seem eager to avoid even the appearance that they are trying to influence the outcome, political analysts said. The state-controlled media outlets around the region have also been relatively low key in their coverage.

“When you are waiting so much for something that makes you happy, you hold your breath, you make less noise in order not to affect the outcome,” said Randa Habib, a political analyst and columnist in Amman, Jordan.

Iran’s allies, on the other hand, are restive. Emad Gad, an Egyptian expert in international affairs, said that he saw evidence of Iran’s allies, especially in Syria, trying to hedge their bet on Tehran. He said that Syria had in recent days been more willing to help Egypt press for reconciliation between Palestinian factions.

“I think Ahmadinejad will concentrate in the economic field to improve living conditions for his population after this crisis,” Mr. Gad said. “That means less giving money, less meddling, less penetration in the Arab world, less involvement.”

I offered my first extended take on all this last Tuesday in the Huffington Post.