Must Reads from Around the World: Jan. 27, 2012

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Members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Navy march during a parade to commemorate the anniversary of the Iran-Iraq war (1980-88), in Tehran September 22, 2011.

Geopolitics Foreign Policy takes an astute look at how Iran – contrary to its own initial hopes and others’ fears – has failed to benefit from the Arab Spring. “In fact, Iran’s regional position has taken a big hit,” Colin H. Kahl concludes in “Supremely Irrelevant.” Meanwhile, the New Yorker wonders which of the region’s (unfinished) revolutions is fit to celebrate one year after Egypt’s revolution began?

Olympic Stand – Writing in the Guardian, Meredith Alexander, head of policy at Action Aid, explains why she quit the Commission for a Sustainable London 2012 – set up to promote sustainability at this year’s Olympics games – over the unlikely issue of the 1984 toxic gas leak in Bhopal, India, and Dow Chemical, the American company NGOs ultimately hold responsible for the tragedy. And on a lighter note, London 2012’s opening ceremony is to be called Isles of Wonder, organisers have announced exactly six months ahead of the Games. Artistic director Danny Boyle called the ceremony “an enormous bloody thing.”

Crime and Politics – The Christian Science Monitor examines whether claims by El Salvador’s National Civil Police that street gangs are plotting to “take down the system” are legitimate or if politics is at play. “The claims may simply be designed to garner public sympathy for the police, in an attempt to cast the police force as the ‘good guys,'” writes Geoffrey Ramsey, a guest blogger.

How Much Does Your iPhone Really Cost? – The New York Times‘ second installment in their iEconomy series delves into the world of working conditions in Apple supplier factories and from the article’s perspective at least, it’s a grim world indeed. How much power does Apple have to improve these conditions? And will devotees of Apple’s products even care, which is a topic TIME’s Sam Gustin investigates.

South Africa’s Influence Issue – Is South Africa the best country to lead the African Union? No, according to Simon Allison in the Daily Maverick who writes that the superpower of Africa isn’t exactly warmly received by the rest of the continent. Sure, South Africa is leading the region now in terms of wealth, influence and development. But that “pre-eminence is even more problematic because many African countries feel that the South African regime owes them big-time for their support during the anti-apartheid struggle.”

Not in my Backyard The Economist tackles Turkey’s growing regional strife. Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s policy of “zero problems with the neighbours” is strained by escalating violence in Syria and political issues with France.

Strange Bedfellows – Science, international politics and economic stability intertwine as world leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland come to terms with the fact that the subjects are not mutually exclusive. German newspaper Die Welt takes a closer look at how science is playing a larger role in this year’s discussions. Is it time to give science a larger role at the table?

Social Stresses – As Spain’s unemployment rate surpasses 22 percent, demand on services such as job centers and soup kitchens rise. Statistics released Friday put the country’s jobless rate at more than double the euro zone average, the Wall Street Journal reports. Newcomers to services are greeting with long lines and understaffed offices. And government officials face intense pressure to overhaul the broken labor market.