While the Iraq war and the American election have been dominating the news, events this year in a third country, Iran, may point to a new crisis next year.
In February, the BBC reported that alienation from Irans regime of hard-line mullahs was deepening. Women were shedding black chadors, and forbidden satellite TV channels were avidly watched. "The mosques are empty," an Iranian sociologist told The New York Times. The previous month, Irans Guardian Council arbitrarily disqualified 3,600 candidates from parliamentary elections, including most incumbent reformers. When elections were held, most Iranians didnt bother to vote.
Once installed, the new parliament rejected the U.N. convention banning discrimination against women, and arrests of women for wearing "un-Islamic" dress surged again. In September, Reporters Without Borders denounced the regime for jailing three journalists and the father of another one, calling the latter "a despicable act."
With the safety valve of reformism shut off, the regimes brutality is stoking the steam of opposition - even among clerics. Ayatollah Montazeri complained of "court summonses, newspaper closings, and prosecutions of dissidents," and another moderate Shia leader called the regime "societys dregs and fascists...who are convinced that yogurt is black."
The regime has also provoked alarm abroad. In July, BBC sources familiar with the work of the International Atomic Energy Agency said that "Iran wants to produce nuclear weapons," and on Sept. 12 Irans supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, called the United States a "clear manifestation of evil."