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IRAN: Middle East split over protests

July 9, 2009 |  3:50 am

Green banner protest The Middle East remains torn over the election fallout in Iran. Many are inspired by the protests and wish their own populations would rise up against repressive regimes. But, as is common in the conspiracy-minded Middle East, many also see the hand of the U.S. orchestrating or, at the very least, exploiting Iran’s unrest.

In an essay in Al-Ahram Weekly, Mustafa Labbad writes that “Arab public opinion is divided between support for the demonstrations as the legitimate right of all peoples and rejection of them as a product of the West and a tool for bringing down the Iranian regime.”

Two dynamics are unfolding: The peaceful demonstrations, Labbad says, have turned into a global war against Iran while the supporters of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad “sum up Iran and its unique culture in the president's persona, and in doing so, they come very close to classic models of dictatorship and its political values from the Middle East -- one opinion, one voice, one group.”

This raises an intriguing notion. In countries like Iran, where security forces have tightened their grip, can democracy be willed through popular resistance, or does it need a bit of help from outside forces?

Click here for Labbad's full essay.

-- Jeffrey Fleishman in Cairo

Photo: Protests in Iran. Credit: AFP