Stirrings In Iran And Lebanon

We all know the imminent Iranian elections are circumscribed and do not mean a real transition of power. But they are an expression of popular sentiment and thereby have some impact on Iran's government, economy and foreign policy. I don't know how one can feel anything but hope at what seems to be going on:

“What’s happening now is more than what should happen before an election,” said Mashalah Shamsolvaezin, a political commentator and former director of several reformist newspapers. “This is an expression of protest and dissatisfaction by people. They are venting their frustration and feeling very powerful.”...

The rallies appear to have surprised and unsettled the authorities, and Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in a message broadcast on state television, warned against any further escalation.

“I don’t want to comment about people coming onto the streets, but they should not turn into confrontation or clashes between supporters of the candidates,” Ayatollah Khamenei said.

Somewhat Obama-esque, no? People are not illusioned, I suspect.

But they sense a rare moment in which the constellations might become aligned for a Grand Bargain in the region, and they are understandably exhausted and not a litle unnerved by the brinksmanship of the last few years. The same appears to be true in Lebanon, where the Cairo effect seems at least tangible enough to discuss:

While President Ahmadinejad has grown unpopular for many reasons, including his troubled stewardship of the economy, political analysts said that President Obama had blunted the appeal of Mr. Ahmadinejad’s confrontation with the West. The results in Lebanon may also make it more difficult for Israel to capitalize on fears of Hezbollah dominance and shift the conversation away from the peace process with the Palestinians a tactic that many analysts here attributed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “I think the speech of Obama in Cairo more likely played a role in neutralizing anti-Americanism,” said Khalil al-Dakhil, a sociologist from Saudi Arabia. “It was a positive message. It was a conciliatory message.”

Amazing what mere words can do.