Category Archives: Iran Elections

Iran at a Brezhnev Crossroad: an Aging Revolution, a Younger Unhappy Population…….

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On the anniversary of the Iranian Revolution of 1979, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei tweeted this:
” @khamenei_ir
Dear prideful nation of #Iran! The greatness of your gatherings today, which, according to precise calculations, was more populated and morepassionate than previous years, was a resolute response to the enemies and oath-breakers….”
“Relying on their distorted false perceptions of Iran and Iranians, the enemies had spent all their propaganda efforts on trying to turn this year’s revolution celebration frigid or probably anti-revolution. You’ve exhibited the livelihood & dynamism of the revolution in practice…..”
Feb 11, 2018

This year’s anniversary of the last of the great popular revolutions of the twentieth century has been surrounded with interesting domestic developments. We know what happened with the other two revolutions, in Russia and China. In Russia they gave up on the ideology; in China they still pretend that the Communist system of Chairman Mao exists, as a means to legitimize one-party rule of a new oligarchy. In Iran, Ali Khamenei is trying to keep the flames of the old aging revolution alive. Did I leave out Cuba?

In a nation that is younger and wants more freedoms, more accountability, in an age of spreading social media and access to opinion. What to do?
Violent repression, for example Egyptian style, will not work anymore in Iran. During the recent protests a few weeks ago, many of the security forces were noticeably sympathetic to the protests. More subtle forms of protest continue. There will be more periodic protests; for years now people have been testing the limits of freedoms allowed.

There has been gradual and incremental but unannounced openness by the regime as well, forced by the people. Giving in more publicly and at once will eventually open the floodgates to more encroachment of the feared global culture, and more demands for more openness and more freedoms.

What to do? Perhaps a Chinese solution? But the Chinese regime is now agnostic: politically Communist in the name of the one ruling party; economically and socially capitalistic and oligarchic to boot.

The Iranian ayatollahs pride themselves on some kind of “purity”, along the model of the old stubborn Soviet regime in the Brezhnev era, when all the revolutionary thrill was gone from the younger generation. But Iran is not a Soviet-style closed system: freedom of travel and emigration has never been curtailed. Social media thrive, as do international satellite television. The country also hosts about 2 million Afghan refugees, who can travel across the border. Expatriate non-political Iranian exiles are freely allowed back into the country. All that has allowed a sort of safety valve but also created demands for more.

Rouhani is trying some short-term solutions. But that would only underline the need for a longer-term deal between the people and their government. The weak point is the position of the Supreme Leader. Chairman Mao is dead in China, but Ayatollah Khamenei is an unelected veto-holder. He is in a way selected by an elected assembly created to gate-keep access to power. But even so, he shares power with various other centers of power: the elected president of the republic (Rouhani), the elected and contentious parliament that takes its powers very seriously, other various senior clerics (more senior than Khamenei).

Then there is the ultimate theological marja’iya (last recourse in Shi’a theological matters) located in Najaf (Iraq). Najaf, where Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani is located, is like the Rome for Shi’a Muslims.

Ali Sistani does not support the idea of rule by the clergy, nor do many others, possibly most Shi’as. It is unlikely that this political ideology chasm between Najaf and Tehran/Qom will ever be closed on Tahran’s terms. If there is a closing, it will be Tehran and Qom moving closer to the Najaf school of thought in governing. A largely Islamic but diverse state with elected civilian non-clerical rule. That was the case in Iran under Mossadegh until August 1953, when its overthrow was engineered by Western intelligence agencies (CIA, British intelligence).

Iran has had at least one case of a Gorbachev in the past four decades. Khatami was paralysed by a conservative parliament, and the Supreme Leader. Rouhani may manage things better, but he has only a couple of years left of his presidency.

Meanwhile, the people, especially in the cities, will continue to chip away at the restrictions imposed by the clerics. The trend towards more openness will continue and accelerate; unless Donald Trump is talked by the hawks in the US Senate/Congress and by the Israeli likud and a couple of despotic Arab kings to start a new war. That will immediately lead to consolidation in Tehran. It happened before when Saddam Hussein’s Iraq started the eight-year war. He lost, but so did the people of Iran.

Oh, and forget about the regime change nonsense being peddled by frustrated hawks and chickenhawks in the USA. Remember: the 1953 Western intervention led to the current situation…….

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

World Elections: Mother of All Germans, a French Pied-Noir, and a Persian Carpet Weaver…….

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European elections coming up. France this month will choose between Marine Le Pen, considered an anti-EU rebel, and Emmanuel Macron, the candidate of the elites and the French establishment. Britain will vote in snap parliamentary elections the Conservative Tories hope to win. German elections coming up as well, with Angela Merkel (Mother of All Germans) facing snapping opponents.

I am not sure who will win, but I have my own odds (all odds are risky given the American elections last November). But I know one thing: British, French, or German winners will all pack a suitcase at some point and head to the Middle East region. No, not to perform the Hajj or Umrah pilgrimage. Each will be eager to sell more weapons and other goodies than the other Europeans. Even the Marxist Jean-Luc Mélenchon, had he won, would also fly to Riyadh or Abu Dhabi peddling weapons and other goods. An intense rivalry among the three big European powers over Arab markets. Forget about human rights. Most European leaders are traveling salesman, although Merkel may be less of one.

Which reminds me: Iran is having its own elections for president. It looks like it could go either way. The U.S. Congress (both parties) and the Democrat bureaucrats in the Obama Administration have made sure that the economic benefits of the Nuclear Deal are minimal to the Iranian people. President Hassan Rouhani could lose the election to hardliner Mohammad Ghalibaf (his name in Persian means ‘carpet weaver‘). Either way it will be close. But don’t expect either one of these Iranians, or whoever else wins, to fly around the region selling weapons to the potentates.


Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Israeli Politics, Iranian Politics, Arab Politics: Some Similarities?……….

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“Firebrand Arab MP Haneen Zuabi, a regular critic of Israel’s right-wing government, was banned Thursday from standing in next month’s general election. The elections committee gave no reason for the disqualification, reported on its website, but Zuabi’s lawyer Hassan Jabareen said it was because she was deemed “hostile to the Jewish state.” The committee also banned extreme right winger Baruch Marzel, a follower of radical rabbi Meir Kahane……….”

This sounds almost Iranian, as in Islamic Republican. They have a similar system where candidates are vetted to make sure they are not “outliers” as far as the regime is concerned. The difference is, an Israeli court is more likely to overturn this disqualification.
Which reminds me, about the coming parliamentary ‘elections’ in Egypt……..
Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum                          Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter

Iran: Mr. Rouhani’s Illusory Western Honeymoon……….

      


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“The stunning landslide election of Hassan Rowhani as Iran’s next president highlighted a deep frustration among many Iranians about the direction of their country, especially an economy marred by skyrocketing prices, stagnant salaries and dwindling job opportunities. In explaining their vote for Rowhani, many spoke of change. They alluded not to hot-button international issues such as Iran’s contentious nuclear program or its die-hard support of Syrian President Bashar Assad, but to the slumping economy…………………”

Iranian elections have shown over the years that they are often unpredictable. The moderate Hassan Rouhani is the newly elected president of Iran. The people of Iran have shown they are eager to reform and engage. But probably not to surrender. There is suddenly so much talk of goodwill in Western media, especially in American media. For now.
We should remember the last reformist president of Iran. Mohammed Khatami was even more reformist, more engaging. Iran’s nuclear program was not deemed as contentious, mainly because Israel had a different government and the U.S. Congress did not act as a branch of the Likud coalition. Khatami even showed sympathy and turned a blind eye to the American invasion of Afghanistan after the September 11 terrorist attacks. Yet in January of 2002, Mr. Bush delivered a bad speech in which he added Mr. Khatami’s country to North Korea and Baathist Iraq in a stupidly-named Axis of Evil.
So, give it some time. Mr. Netanyahu and his omnipotent lobbyists and the U.S. Knesset Congress have not started their work on Mr. Rouhani yet. And they will.

Cheers
mhg

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com




Iran Elections: a Spring in the Air, Will Ahmadinejad go Rogue against the Ayatollahs?…………

         


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“March 20, marking the spring equinox, is the start of the Persian new year – Nowruz – a 13-day ancient Zoroastrian festival celebrated as the most important holiday of the Iranian calendar. The presidential elections, scheduled for 14 June, are taking place in the final days of the season. Ahmadinejad’s critics believe the president, who is prevented under Iranian law from running for a third term, is pursuing a Putin/Medvedev-style reshuffle by grooming his chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, as his possible successor. Mashaei, a confidant of Ahmadinejad and his relative, is accused of advocating nationalism, greater cultural openness and attempting to undermine clerical rule, especially the supremacy of Khamenei. Opponents say that Mashaei is the head of a “deviant current” within the president’s inner circle and he has little respect for the supreme leader, although he denies it. If Mashaei does put his name forward for the presidential vote, the powerful pro-Khamenei Guardian Council will have to vet his candidacy. Many believe he will not be allowed to run, while others say Ahmadinejad will threaten to go out with all guns firing if that happens. Last week, in a ceremony held before Nowruz, Ahmadinejad awarded Mashaei the country’s highest cultural medal. Both men were recorded as using spring in their speeches. Keyhan, an ultra-conservative newspaper with a director appointed by Khamenei, has attacked the men for repeated references to spring, which it said could have un-Islamic connotations…………….”

The clerics can see now that the post of president may continue to be problematic for them. It has been so at least twice in the past, when the elected presidents clashed with the selected Supreme Leader. The very first president of Iran, Abolhassan BaniSadr disagreed with Ayatollah Khomeinei and had to flee the country to exile in Paris. Mr. Ahmadinejad has been engaged in a power struggle and is continuously clashing with the conservative clerics in Parliament who are allies of the leader. Even Khatami who was a reformist cleric clashed with the conservatives.
All this means the clerics will probably try to disqualify some of the reformist candidates, try to remove them from the list. Their main target will likely be Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, an ally of Mr. Ahmadinejad whom the current president supports. If he decides to run.
If the clerics disqualify Mashaei, Mr. Ahmadinejad may go rogue, more so than he has done so far. He might start to publicly question the separation of powers between the elected president and the unelected Supreme Leader. This will probably resonate among many young Iranians, even among some who are not so young. This should make the elections more exciting than seems likely right now; it might even invigorate some of the demoralized reformists even possibly some of the many closet secularists.

Cheers
mhg

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com