Monday, April 30, 2007

Change in the Air???

Encouraging signs have been emanating from the Middle East. Indications suggest that two of the destabilising forces in the region could be on the verge of losing their leaders. It would appear that the pressure is really starting to grow on both Olmert and Ahmadinejad from within their own countries. In Olmert's case it is hard to see how he can continue to hold on to power much longer. Already embroiled in corruption scandals, he has now been accused of incompetence in the Winograd Report. For Ahmadinejad, the forces of the opposition are starting to gain momentum and his disastrous policies look likely to seal his fate.

The Winograd Report, put together by a government appointed committee looking into the second Lebanon war, has been scathing of Olmert's handling of the crisis. The partial report accuses Olmert of "severe failure" in exercising judgment, responsibility and caution during the outset of the war. According to the report, Olmert acted hastily in leading Israel to war without a comprehensive plan. He was also criticised for failing to consult military experts before rushing into war. From Haaretz:

"The prime minister made up his mind hastily, despite the fact that no detailed military plan was submitted to him and without asking for one," the report said. "He made his decision without systematic consultation with others, especially outside the IDF, despite not having experience in external-political and military affairs."

Olmert was also censured for failing to "adapt his plans once it became clear that the assumptions and expectations of Israel's actions were not realistic and were not materializing."

"All of these," the report said, "add up to a serious failure in exercising judgment, responsibility and prudence." [my emphasis]

Despite the strong criticisms levelled at Olmert, he is refusing to stand down. In a live television address, he said:

"It would not be correct to resign and I have no intention of resigning."
Luckily, Olmert has some friends in very high places. In response to the report, Tony Snow claimed that George W Bush:
"works very closely with Prime Minister Olmert, and thinks that he's essential in working toward a two-state solution. The president remains committed to it."
Of course, the war with Lebanon had the full backing of Bush and Blair, who refused to call for a ceasefire as innocent people were killed in the ongoing conflict.
Despite this backing, it seems clear that the pressure is going to mount on Olmert until the inevitable occurs. The families of those who died will clearly need some serious questions answered by Olmert. What with this report, and the ongoing corruption scandals, it looks like time is running out for Ehud Olmert.
As for Ahlmadinejad, it also looks like the end is near for the West's favourite bogey man. According to a report in today's Guardian:
A grand coalition of anti-government forces is planning a second Iranian revolution via the ballot box to deny President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad another term in office and break the grip of what they call the "militia state" on public life and personal freedom.
It would appear that opposition forces are coming together to ensure that his reign collapses sooner rather than later. Centred on the former president, Mohammad Khatami , the opposition intends to capitalise on the President's growing unpopularity to win control of the Majlis in the upcoming general elections. According to opposition spokesmen, the goal is to:
bring down the fundamentalist regime by democratic means, transform Iran into a "normal country", and obviate the need for any military or other US and western intervention.
And that is the key. The change that is necessary can be achieved without intervention from the West. In fact, it is very likely that any moves by the West will lead to a very hostile response by the Iranian people and a subsequent rise in support for Ahmadinejad's hardline policies. Given the West's background in the region, through support of the Shah, the Iranian people are very wary of Western influence and any attempts to influence the country should be resisted at all costs. Despite the eagerness of Bush and Blair to see another bombing campaign in which hundreds of thousands of people will die, the best solution is to allow the natural progression of Iranian politics to bring about a softening in rhetoric. Intervention is not the answer to the problem.
With the growth of opposition movements in Israel and Iran, there is hope that the end of days is coming for two leaders who have done much to damage their countries in the eyes of the world. It is hard to be optimistic in this part of the world, but maybe there is a glimmer of optimism amongst the darkness.