Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Strange Times Now

In today’s Earth-shattering news department—welcome, North and South Korea and Iran!.

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Probably you’ve heard of the North Korea-South Korea confrontation that has resulted in actual exchanged artillery fire. One hopes that this is not a prelude to anything in particular, given that the region involves no fewer than three nuclear powers (U.S., China, North Korea), but it’s hard to be particularly confident when you hear comments like this:
The President of South Korea has said he believes "enormous retaliation is going to be necessary to make North Korea incapable of provoking us again".
Sounds like Cold War game theory logic come back again! (The South Korean President can’t well say, “Yeah, whatevs” because this would signal weakness and invite attack; on the other hand, signaling strength puts you on course for a game of nuclear chicken.)

It’s also hard to escape the context of all this—the two Koreas have been jousting for a while now over various territorial matters, along with that weird incident with the submarine (and the exchanged gunfire in late October right before the G-20 meeting) to conclude that, like volcanic activity, something is bubbling up and feeding on itself. Figuring out North Korea is a fool’s game, but it probably has something to do with the leadership transition, right? Or who knows?

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The ultra-surprising news that Iran’s parliament wants to impeach Ahmadinejad but was blocked by Khamenei continues Iran’s longest-running mystery as to why Khamenei likes Ahmadinejad so much—at the beginning of the Ahmadinejad administration, they really were not fans of each other. At any rate, apparently the Guardian Council—one of many of the baroque number of entities guaranteed by the Iranian constitution (there’s the upper house and lower house of parliament, the President, the Supreme Leader, the Guardian Council, the Council of Expediency, and the Assembly of Experts. Got that all straight?)—has recommended to Khamenei that he further curb the powers of the Iranian parliament, which sure would be interesting.

Oh, by the by: Iran just issued an arrest warrant for the son of Akbar Rafsanjani, the guy who leads both the Council of Expediency and the Assembly of Experts. When last we heard of Rafsanjani, he was trying to keep his leadership of Iran’s biggest private university system too—which Ahmadinejad wanted for the $$$ involved there—and it’s not hard to see the arrest warrant against the son as anything but a move against the father. This is also interesting, given that Rafsanjani’s reputation among reformist elements in Iran was of a moderate guy who liked making money for himself and his associates. But it’s strange times.

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