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Jonathan Power: Europe, The Great (Christian) Republic?

Since the European Union parliamentary elections some two weeks ago, Europeans have been putting themselves through a bout of navel gazing and introspection. People are asking what exactly is the purpose of the European Parliament when every country has its own legislatures, both national and local? Why did a record low number of voters turn out? Why did eastern Europeans—only recently liberated from the yolk of dictatorship which denied them the vote—cast fewer ballots than anyone else (with only a couple exceptions)? Why do the British talk as if membership to the European Union is a yoke around their necks? More broadly, what is Europe? Writing in 1751, Voltaire described Europe as “a kind of great republic, divided into several states, some monarchical, the others mixed but all corresponding with one another. They all have the same religious foundation, even if it is divided into several confessions. They all have the same principals of public law and politics unknown in other parts of the world.” In a way that Charlemagne, Voltaire, William Penn, and William Gladstone—the early advocates of European unity—could only dream, a united Europe has become a reality with half a billion members.

Azubuike Ishiekwene: Echoes of 1979 in Iranian Protests

Thirty years after the Shah was overthrown in a revolution, Iran is embroiled in an upheaval that appears to be threatening the grip of the Ayatollah over the country. There are striking ironies between what happened in 1979 under the Shah, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, and what is happening today under Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the incumbent supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The way the Shah fell out with his Western allies, especially the United States, over arms build-up in the mid-1970s, has eerie parallels to the way the mullahs in Tehran have fallen out with Washington over Iran’s nuclear weapons program, among other issues. What has been dramatized today as the Iranian Revolution, Part II, is a delicate, almost inscrutable power game, fueled by suspicions and deep-seated mutual distrust on both sides. It wasn’t always like that. At the height of the love affair between Iran and the West in the 1950s up through the 1970s, the Shah could do no wrong. To fend off any possible communist incursions, the United States poured millions of dollars into Iran to shore up the Shah. The oil windfall of the late 1970s, brought on by the Arab-Israeli war, was also a blessing to Iran. The Shah took advantage of the profits to rebuild his country and a new middle class was born. The downside of the boom, of course, was that it created in the Shah a new taste for luxury and power beyond the pale. He went to extraordinary lengths to sustain his appetite. He created the SAVAK, a special (and much loathed) security and intelligence force, trained and backed by the United States, which helped him to rule with an iron fist and isolated him from the people. Washington did not seem to mind, at least not in the early stages of the Shah’s neurosis. A blog by Jeb Sharp on Iran-U.S. relations quoted Henry Precht, the young American intelligence officer who managed arms sales between the United States and Iran under the Shah, as saying, “They promised the Shah that he could buy whatever he wanted and no one would quibble with him. Everything up to but not including nuclear weapons. So, that was my marching orders, facilitate, don’t get in the way of this process.... Then came the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. Oil prices rose dramatically. Suddenly, the Shah was flush with money. He bought massive quantities of the most high-tech weaponry money could buy. US officials were unsettled by the consequences of their bargain.” Eventually, the Shah’s opulent lifestyle and tight hold on power through the security forces isolated the middle class, sidelined the communists and the mullahs, and narrowed the political space. Moreover, Pahlavi's new hunger for high-tech military weapons—some argue that he laid the foundation for Iran’s nuclear program—isolated him from his Western allies, especially from Washington. By the time he was overthrown in 1979, he was a sad, broken man; betrayed and completely on his own.

David A. Andelman on opendemocracy.net

"The real roots of many major recent and current political events - the convulsions surrounding Iran's Islamic regime, the bloody troubles in neighbouring Iraq, the ethnic cleansing and mass murders i

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