The Abassid Caliphs (762 - 935 ACE) was an average In Our Time programme -- meaning it's quite excellent . I was enjoying a 2nd listening on my morning commute when I realized I'd missed a major connection on the first go-round. They were discussing the civil war that destroyed much of 9th century (812-813 ACE) Baghdad, a war between the "western" Arabs and the "eastern" Persian forces fought in part over the requirements for becoming Caliph. One side insisted that only descendants of the Prophet were eligible, the other wanted power to be open to any devout and well educated Muslim.
Obviously twelve hundred years is not that long in the Middle East, but we knew that.
I suspect this connection is so obvious to most educated Iraqis that it probably goes unremarked. Certainly any scholar of the period would have thought of it when Bush first threatened invasion.
What I find curious is that I hadn't read this before. I don't read everything, but I do read quite a bit... Why is there such a gap between those who write for newspapers and the rest of the world? How can we better connect journalists to knowledge? 
 See my note on how to get these archival shows on your iPod.
 Of course even I don't dare wonder about connecting politicians to knowledge ... Imagine a world in which the President had to compete a training program before ascending to power ... in which senators went to class ... in which 'In Our Time' was the core of a required program of study ... A silly thought. On the other hand, isn't that what the US military does? Don't we require board exams and continuing education of physicians? In an increasingly complex world, why don't we require examination and certification of politicians? Maybe a 'no senator left behind program ... With public review of the results of course ... Heh, heh, heh...