Iran and Iraq
The hard-line Islamist state of Iran started the New Year by test-firing two ‘long-range’ missiles during naval exercises near the Strait of Hormuz.
According to Al-Jazeera, deputy navy commander Mahmoud Mousavi told the official Iranian news agency: ‘We have test-fired a long-range shore-to-sea missile called Ghadr (capable), which managed to successfully destroy predetermined targets in the Gulf’.
Mr Mousavi also announced the launch of a Nour (light) surface-to-surface long-range missile. Both the Ghadr and Nour missiles are said to have a range of 200km, which is generally considered medium-range, or even short-range, for a cruise missile.
The move has led to further instability in the region, especially as its neighbour, Iraq, is hanging onto its post-occupation regime by a thread.
On 14 December, US president Barack Obama marked the end of the Iraq war in a speech at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, as the last US soldiers pulled out of the country.
This was followed by concern over the future of Iraqi policy, after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki suddenly arrested 615 alleged Baathists, many of whom had been his political enemies.
According to Al-Jazeera, Mr Maliki has also pressed terrorism charges against vice-president Tariq al-Hashemi, a Sunni Islamist and prominent member of Iraqiyya. There has been a recent parliamentary no-confidence vote to oust Sunni deputy prime minister Saleh Mutlaq, another prominent member of Iraqiyya, ostensibly over a personal slight, while other political opponents woke up to find tanks around their homes.