Global News Journal
Beyond the World news headlines
Russia’s angry response to an accord between Washington and Prague on building part of a U.S. missile defence shield in the Czech Republic is reminiscent of the rhetoric of the Cold War. Although Russian President Dmitry Medvedev says Moscow still wants talks on the missile shield, his Foreign Ministry has threatened a “military-technical” response if the shield is deployed.
That phrase could have come straight out of the Soviet lexicon and seems more at home in the second half of the last century than now. Russian military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer called it psychological pressure to try to encourage opposition to the missile system among Europeans, and described it as “the same sort that was used in the 1980s by the Soviet Union when the United States deployed cruise missiles in Europe.”
We are, of course, a long way from the tensions of the Cold War. But the dispute is reminiscent of the war of words between the Soviet Union and the United States in the 1980s over another missile defence system — the Strategic Defence Initiative proposed by Ronald Reagan. His dream of a partly space-based missile system, otherwise known as Star Wars after George Lucas’ 1977 film, never became a reality but the row over it plagued Soviet-U.S. relations for years.
The disagreement over the missile defence system that George W. Bush now wants to be partly based in Europe risks having a similar impact on U.S.-Russian relations. Perhaps fittingly, it has been referred to as Son of Star Wars.
In the late 1990s, not long after pro-reform politician Mohammad Khatami swept to a landslide victory in the Iranian presidential elections, some Western observers started wondering if this was the step that would herald a collapse of the Islamic Republic — rather like the Soviet Union tumbled on Mikhail Gorbachev’s watch a decade earlier.
It was early days for me observing Iran. But an acquaintance of mine offered some analysis. Iran is not communist Europe. It is still a young revolution, he told me (at a time when it was
turning 20). There are still plenty of Iranians willing to die for the cause. Don’t expect it to come crashing down, he said.
There is a running joke among Western journalists, diplomats and other foreigners based in Iran who have the task of trying to understand what is going on behind the scenes: the longer you stay here, the more opaque Iranian policy making becomes.
It may be said lightheartedly, but it contains more than a grain of truth. The longer you spend trying to peel back the layers of the Iranian establishment to understand what the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is thinking, the more layers you discover.