If President Obama can continue his recent "bold leadership and prophetic eloquence" in the State of the Union Address, he has the opportunity to override the bickering in the House of Representatives, imprinting an indelible impression in the minds of the 77% of Americans who believe that compromise is a worthy objective. No one should be naïve enough to think that politics will not return to the heated debate that marked the last Congress, but on 25 January Obama could don the mantle of representing the "silent majority" of moderates of both parties –-- and Independents --– in the US.
2145 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Mousavi campaign Poriya Mousavi has been arrested after a raid on the family home.
Economist Fariborz Reisdana has been released on bail.Reisdana was arrested a month ago after he gave an interview criticising the Government's subsidy cuts.
1945 GMT: A Note to the President. MP Gholam Reza Mesbahi-Moghaddam has jabbed at the President over his failure to fulfil goals in the development plan and his "untrue" remarks about government achievements.
Ankara's "zero problem with neighbours" policy continues as Hezbollah and its politcal allies walked away from the Lebanese government last week. On Friday, former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri was in Ankara, and the visit was followed by a call by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to offer cooperation. Erdogan said, "There is a need for the parties to act with full responsibility and an understanding that keeps Lebanon’s common interests above any sort of [political] consideration."
Ankara, in the role of "firefighter" on the Lebanese crisis, is pursuing its grand strategy of centring itself in regional discussions not only as a "city planner" but as a global architect.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the Israeli Cabinet about the lesson of the developments in Tunisia: "If there is one conclusion, one clear lesson that arises from all that we see around us, it is that we need to lay the foundations of security in any agreement that we make. We cannot simply say 'We are signing a peace agreement', close our eyes and say 'We did it' because we do not know with any clarity that the peace will indeed be honored."
Rally in Bizerte on the north coast:
There were reports throughout today of gun battles and skirmishes in Tunis between the Army and former elements of the Presidential Guard, with claims that foreign "mercenaries" had been arrested. Two clips of the Army detaining suspects:
The state is currently facing a crucial catch-22 in its history, a situation that has been created in recent years from uninspired economic policies to a lack of genuine political and social reform. After years of attempting to reign in any attempts for true democratic reform on the political level, a struggling economy has emerged. Today, Jordan, and perhaps much of the Arab world is learning one important lesson from Tunisia: the call for political change from the domestic constituency is unlikely to happen in the region unless the economy gets bad, real, real, bad. Governments can take away, censor or control various freedoms, including the right to a free press or the right to an elected government, and people are unlikely to be moved enough to demand widespread change. That’s just the political reality of it; people can’t afford to make such demands. But if you put a man’s livelihood at stake, if their financial situation is in dire straits, then they’ll be forced to react.
Will the events in Tunisia cause asimilar situation to unfold in Jordan?
On Friday, an estimated 8000 people --- in an "unprecedented development" --- protested on the streets of Amman and other Jordanian cities over rising food prices and unemployment. They challenged Prime Minister Sair Rifai with chants, "Down with Rifai's government. Unify yourselves because the government wants to eat your flesh and raises fuel prices to fill their pockets with millions." There were reports of tanks surrounding major cities and the establishment of checkpoints and barriers.
In that context, we note this article from Yasmeen Tabbaa in Muftah:
Earlier this week The Guardian of London, noting an article on the opposition site Kalemeh, wrote in astonishment: even though Twitter and Facebook are blocked in Iran, the Supreme Leader had come out on both.
Only thing is: it's an old story.
We know this because we were one of Ayatollah Khamenei's first Facebook Friends. Here are the EA story and updates, run unedited, from August 2009:
UPDATE 16 August, 2035 GMT: Supreme Leader wants to click "Get New Nokia N97" ad on his page but worries he will put himself under surveillance.
Ayatollah Khamenei still has 39 friends.
2125 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Student activist Mohammad Hossein Mozafari has been released from detention.
A court has confirmed the six-year sentence of teachers' union activist Rasoul Badaghi.
Security forces have raided the home of journalist Peyman Aref, who was arrested in June 2009 and sentenced in March 2010 to one year in prison. He was given temporary release for medical reasons in April.
2035 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Radio Zamaneh summarises the statement of families of political prisoners about the dire conditions for women detainees in the quarantine section of Evin Prison.
2205 GMT: Confusion tonight over reports that "foreign mercenaries" were captured by the Army after gun battles today (see 2035 GMT), with claims that they were Swedish tourists in Tunis, on a hunting trip for wild boar, who were beaten by a mob.
2120 GMT: The full State Department text of Hillary Clinton's discussion with the Tunisian Foreign Minister today (see 1800 GMT):
Secretary Clinton called Tunisian Foreign Minister Kamel Morjane today to express support for the people of Tunisia as they and their government go through a period of significant transition. She urged that the Government work to re-establish order in the country in a responsible manner as quickly as possible. She also underscored the importance of addressing popular concerns about the lack of civil liberties and economic opportunities, and the need to move forward with credible democratic elections.
She noted that the United States is encouraged by recent remarks by Prime Minister Ghannouchi and Interim President Mabazza indicating a willingness to work with Tunisians across the political spectrum and within civil society to build a truly representative government. Lastly, the Secretary offered the assistance of the United States in helping Tunisians to meet these challenges, and assured the Foreign Minister that the United States will stand with Tunisia as it moves forward to address them.