Blog-Archive

Freedom of the Press? Not Under Rouhani.

jason

Imagine a group of people. They look just like you. They have families, lives, interests, hobbies, everything you know from your own life. The only thing that is different in their lives than those of yours is the job they chose to do: They elected to be journalists in the Islamic Republic of Iran. So now they’re in jail, and no one knows when they will be set free again.

It wasn’t supposed to be like that. Upon his election, Hassan Rouhani was perceived as being a great hope in that aspect. In fact, as early as his first speech in office, Rouhani said “The government that takes its legitimacy from its people does not fear the free media; we will seek help from their constructive criticism.”

Well, apparently that’s over with; Washington post’s Tehran’s correspondent Jason Rezaian (along with his wife Yeganeh Salehi), has been arrested in July. Since then, there have been numerous calls for his release, but the president has remained silent, and has done nothing to aid in that cause, nor has his foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Rezaian’s story is a sign of the perils of trying to become a reporter in today’s Iran: “The two have been held for more than eight weeks without explanation or charges. They have not been permitted to meet with their lawyer”, says Douglas Jehl, the Washington post’s foreign editor.

Rezaian is the face of an alarmingly growing epidemic in Iran, reports the committee to protect journalists, in an article that states that journalists have been arrested by the dozen in the country.

This raises the question about the connections between the Iranian president and those kidnaps, but Mr. Zarif’s recent admission, about not even knowing all of the charges that Rezaian was tagged with, brings to mind the question of control in Iran – and it seems that no one in the government really knows what’s going on inside those Journalists’ prisons cell.

Source: Iran2407.wordpress.com

Assessing the Obama Administration’s Iraq-Syria Strategy

In many ways, the Obama Administration’s new strategy toward Iraq and Syria is a work in progress.  Each week, new elements emerge or get added.  And there are certainly a number of important aspects still missing.  However, overall, what is emerging is a smart, coherent approach that is checking off any number of key military and diplomatic boxes.  Of greatest importance, American actions in the region and Administration statements (particularly General Martin Dempsey’s testimony before the Senate last week) indicate that Washington is putting in place a comprehensive strategy meant not only to defeat ISIS, but to address the wider circumstances of Iraq and Syria.  That is critical because ISIS and its ilk are not the problem in the region; they are the symptom of the problem.  The problem is the intercommunal civil wars burning in both Iraq and Syria.  Unfortunately, that’s also where the missing pieces of the strategy remain.

A pair of U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles fly over northern Iraq after conducting airstrikes in Syria (REUTERS/U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Matthew Bruch).

Intertwined Campaigns

At heart, the Administration’s approach is a dual strategy, coupling two similar but not identical approaches to the two countries.  Although some of the Administration’s critics have demanded a single strategy toward both, the Administration’s approach is probably the right one.  It reflects the reality that the two civil wars are different in many important ways and it is not possible to employ the same exact approach to both.  Each needs a tailored version of the broad strategy.  What they do require is close coordination, and it appears that the Administration is doing just that, at least for now.

In both countries, the Administration hopes to empower moderate forces—both Sunni andShi’a to the extent possible—to fight against all of the extremists, both Sunni and Shi’a.  Indeed, to the extent that there is an overarching theme to the strategy, it is one of empowering moderate forces, an idea that ought to be applied more broadly across the Middle East.

In Iraq, the Administration is essentially building on the progress made in 2007-2010 to try to resurrect the power-sharing arrangement forged by the United States as part of the Surge and recreate a unified Iraqi government.  While that government may only be united in name, the willingness of Sunni, Shi’a and perhaps Kurdish leaders to cooperate under that rubric should allow the U.S. to move forward militarily against ISIS and its allies while helping the Iraqis to sort out the final shape of a new Iraqi political system.  In Syria, in contrast, the focus is on building a new Syrian opposition army, one that can defeat both the Asad regime and the Sunni radicals like ISIS, and then use its military successes to create the political incentives for a new national reconciliation/power-sharing agreement as the 1995 Dayton Accords did for Bosnia.

Indeed, to the extent that there is an overarching theme to the strategy, it is one of empowering moderate forces, an idea that ought to be applied more broadly across the Middle East.

These interwoven strategies toward Iraq and Syria have some critical advantages.  Both are reasonable, feasible and historically well-grounded.  If successful, both would produce end-states consistent with American interests.  Moreover, both can be consistent with the interests of America’s allies in the region, hence the publicly-enthusiastic if privately-tepid reception from many of America’s Middle Eastern allies to the new strategy.  Nevertheless, both have important challenges to overcome as well.

The Military Campaigns

In both Syria and Iraq, the American strategy is in the first phase of its military campaign.  Since Washington is determined not to deploy American ground combat troops—or, rightly, to rely on those of other neighboring states—it must build indigenous ground forces.  Air power alone, even American air power, is unlikely to be adequate to drive ISIS, other Sunni militant groups, or the Asad regime’s military forces from the territory they control.  Coalition airstrikes will need complementary ground forces of some kind to fix enemy ground forces and occupy terrain, particularly population centers.  However, as General Dempsey and others have noted, it will take months before such ground forces are ready.

It is worth noting that these ground forces do not have to be first-rate.  They simply need to be good enough that, with the addition of American air power, they can defeat both Asad’s forces and those of ISIS and the other Sunni militants.  That isn’t a very high standard.  In its grandest moments, the Syrian armed forces never rose beyond a rigid mediocrity, and while ISIS has certainly shown both some strategic acumen and tactical ability, it faces both quantitative and qualitative problems of its own.  By comparison, in Afghanistan, the Northern Alliance could not defeat the Taliban until 2001 when it was backed by U.S. air power, and the Libyan opposition was a joke in 2001, but it defeated the remnants of Qadhafi’s military with NATO air support ten years later.  Thus, the historical record demonstrates that indigenous ground forces too week to win without American air support can win handily with it.[1]

American and other Western governments have just begun the long process of building Iraqi and Syria ground forces.  Again, in both cases, the approach the U.S. will take is now clear, but there are a number of potential hurdles that have not yet been addressed.  For instance, in Iraq the Administration has reconciled itself to the need to build, in effect, two separate militaries: a revamped Shi’a-dominated Iraqi Army and a new Sunni national guard.  It remains to be seen how those forces will be able to work together.  In particular, the Sunnis will not want any (Shi’a) Iraqi Army units operating in the Sunni-dominated provinces, and the Shi’a are likely to insist that they do so.  That speaks to a second-order problem, which is that the conduct of the military campaign will be seen by both communities as setting precedents for the eventual reform of Iraqi politics, which is likely to make them dig in their heels even harder over these military considerations.

In Syria there are different but equally challenging issues.  The first among them being whether the U.S. is going to simply try to train, arm and unify the existing hodge-podge of militias, or will create a wholly new, homogeneous Syrian opposition army.  The former would be faster and easier, but the result would have very limited utility.  Indeed, it might be of no use whatsoever.  The latter would be far more militarily effective and politically helpful, but would take much more time and effort.  While General Dempsey’s testimony suggested that the United States planned to take the latter approach (which I consider the better course by far) the matter does not appear settled at this point.[2]

A huge, unanswered question on the military side in Syria is whether (or when) the air campaign will expand beyond ISIS and the Sunni militants to begin targeting the Asad regime’s forces as well.

In the meantime, as these ground forces are readied, the air campaign will roll on.  The strikes we have seen to date in Iraq and Syria give a good indication of what that air campaign will look like.  It will be a unified campaign, striking targets in both Iraq and Syria ore or less simultaneously.  (In that sense, it is the one piece of the strategy that will be truly unified).  Moreover, it will have two primary target sets.  The first will be terrorist targets.  Anytime the U.S. identifies groups interested in striking the U.S. or its allies, it will get hit.  The “Khorasan Group” of Jabhat al-Nusra falls into this category, but so too would ISIS operatives planning terrorist operations.

The second will be a more conventional air interdiction campaign that will seek to attrite and disrupt enemy forces whenever they are vulnerable.  That will include command and control facilities (and personnel), logistical infrastructure, training facilities, barracks, motor pools, economic targets like the oil fields hit this week, transportation assets, and field-deployed combat forces whenever the Coalition receives actionable intelligence on such targets.  That last is an important point: given how much time it will take for the ground forces to be readied, the air campaign is likely to focus on targets of opportunity, striking enemy assets whenever they are vulnerable, whatever and wherever they may be.

Good analogies of this part of the strategy would be the air campaigns against Iraqi forces in the Kuwaiti Theater of Operations during the first 39-days of Operation Desert Storm in 1991, or the Allied air campaign against German targets in France during the build-up to D-Day in 1944.  In both cases, the United States and its allies spent weeks/months working over the enemy’s forces, killing combat forces when available, but otherwise relentlessly busting up logistical facilities, transport assets (trucks, trains, cars, etc.), leadership targets, communications systems, and chokepoints (like bridges and overpasses).  In both cases, these constant attacks wore down the enemy to the point where when the ground forces finally attacked, they had been considerably weakened.

A huge, unanswered question on the military side in Syria is whether (or when) the air campaign will expand beyond ISIS and the Sunni militants to begin targeting the Asad regime’s forces as well.  That is a necessary component of the strategy that the Administration has laid out, and it is not something that needs to start right away.  But it will have to happen at some point, and well before the new Syrian opposition forces are ready to take the field to ensure that they can succeed when they do so.  But going after the regime’s forces will mean both a much bigger military operations, since it will have to first neutralize the regime’s residual air defense network, and a much bigger diplomatic and political fight since Russia and Iran will protest loudly and may try to increase their support to Syria—or even cause trouble for the U.S. elsewhere.

Political-Military Tensions

It is also important to note that there are likely to be significant tensions between military best practices and immediate political needs.  In an ideal world, the Coalition would spend a year or more doing nothing but training the relevant Iraqi and Syrian ground forces, while the air campaign slowly wears down ISIS, other militant groups, and potentially the Asad regime as well.  We would only unleash those ground forces (with U.S. air support) when they were completely ready to go both quantitatively and qualitatively.  Again, D-Day or Operation Desert Storm are good historical analogies.However, the political reality is that American, European, Arab, Iraqi and Syrian opposition leaders will all be under pressure to demonstrate that they are taking action and not simply giving their adversaries a free hand to consolidate power over the territory they control.  All will want ground operations to start as soon as possible, and they will likely press the military commanders to mount limited operations as soon as the first ground forces are ready—or close to it.  The old phrase “close enough for government work” comes readily to mind.  The danger in that is if these limited operations are unsuccessful and the first of the newly-trained ground forces are defeated, it could demoralize the rest of the force, set-back the broader training programs, and exacerbate the inevitable political-infighting that attends any military coalition.  (The failure of the Dieppe raid in 1942 is a good historical example illustrating these issues.)

Political Challenges

The military dimensions of the strategy are increasingly clear, and the challenges they face are not insignificant, but relatively straightforward.  On the political side, the situation is far more murky.

First off there are the problems likely to attend the international effort.  Americans always prefer to fight as part of a coalition, and in this case, some of the countries that Washington is working on have important—even unique—assets that they bring to this particular fight.  The problem is that the countries that are most enthusiastic about the fight, namely the Europeans, have the least to contribute. Whereas, those with the most to contribute, the Sunni Arab states and Turkey, are the least enthusiastic about the American strategy.  Certainly, the European states can and already have contributed some small military forces and they may also be helpful with limited reconstruction funding, but that’s about the extent of it.  And ultimately, the United States does not need European aircraft, at least not militarily.  While European financial contributions will either be inadequate or irrelevant depending on whether the Gulf Arab states make good on their pledges to shoulder the vast bulk of the costs for Syria.

For the Sunni states of the Middle East, the problem is complicated.  They all do hate and fear ISIS.  But they also hate and fear the Shi’a and Iran even more.  Most believe that Iraq and Syria are simply two fronts in a much bigger, more important Sunni-Shi’a struggle for the soul of the Muslim Umma.  What’s more, many of the Arab Sunni states—including Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Jordan—fear the moderate Sunni Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood more than they fear the Salafi extremists of ISIS.  In Syria, these differences are less of a hassle because Washington’s new strategy is about defeating both ISIS and the (the Iranian-backed and predominantly-Shi’a) Asad regime.  However, in Iraq, the Administration hopes to empower both moderate Sunni forces, which may include Brotherhood elements, and the (Iranian-backed and predominantly-Shi’a) government against ISIS and its allies.  That is not terribly comfortable for the Sunni states, and an important reason why they have been far more supportive of the Syria half of the strategy than the Iraq half.  In the future, it may be possible to convince them that even in Iraq the approach will not simply empower their worst enemies at the expense of lesser enemies, but it will take some doing.

The military dimensions of the strategy are increasingly clear, and the challenges they face are not insignificant, but relatively straightforward. On the political side, the situation is far more murky.

In Iraq, the new cabinet is an important step forward, but it is only a very small step.  Iraqis still need to sort out the new shape of their political system.  The Sunnis are determined to see a fully-articulated federal structure emerge, one in which the majority-Sunni provinces have enormous autonomy, including control of their own military forces as the Kurds already do.  Some Shi’a recognize that there will need to be change, but many want a return to the status quo ante, with a strong central government and limited federal powers—essentially the Maliki era without Maliki’s excesses.  Not only will it be difficult to reconcile these competing perspectives, but these differences will play out right from the start in virtually every military, political, or economic decision that the new Iraqi government makes.  Both sides will be constantly weighing any move to assess which side it advantages in that ultimate fight, and that is likely to hamstring the fight against ISIS at every turn.

With Syria, the weakness of the political element of the strategy is even more pronounced.  Simply put, the United States will have to lead an effort of nation-building to heal the wounds of the civil war.  It is unavoidable.  President Obama himself recognized this reality in his interview with Tom Friedman of The New York Times in August.  There he observed that a lesson he learned from Libya in 2011 was that military intervention that was not backed by a major effort to build a functional state afterwards would simply lead to chaos and a new set of threats to American interests.  In the interview, the President implied that this recognition was one reason that he did not want to intervene in Syria because he was not ready to commit to such a program there.  Now, having committed the United States to just such an intervention, he cannot escape the logic of his own contention.  But neither the United States nor any of its allies appear to have given any thought to what post conflict reconstruction in Syria would entail, let alone begun to plan and prepare for that effort.[3]  That could be the largest and most difficult aspect of the entire strategy.

The Big Picture

Despite all of the challenges the new U.S. strategy toward Iraq and Syria faces, it should not be seen as hopeless.  The new strategy is entirely feasible, the challenges identified could all be addressed (and have been, in other efforts elsewhere in the past), and the primary variable is the extent of the American commitment.  Of equal importance, there is no other alternative strategy that has a higher likelihood of succeeding.

Articulating all of the challenges this strategy faces, including those that the Administration simply has not addressed yet, should not be seen as suggesting that its proposed course of action is foolish.  It is not.  However, it is heavily dependent on their willingness to properly implement and resource it.


[1] Of course, that does not mean that it always works.  Kosovo in 1999 is an important contrary example.  There, U.S. air power, weaponry and advisors were not sufficient to enable the Kosovo Liberation Army to defeat the Serbs.  That said, the Serbs were far more powerful than either the Asad regime’s residual armed forces or ISIS and its allies.

[2] For those interested in a more extensive explanation of how (and why) the United States should build a new Syrian opposition Army as the Administration has indicated it will, see Kenneth M. Pollack, “An Army to Defeat Assad: How to Turn Syria’s Opposition Into a Real Fighting Force,” Foreign Affairs, Vol. 93, No. 5 (September/October 2014), pp. 110-124.

[3] For a fuller treatment of this problem, see Kenneth M. Pollack, “We Need to Begin Nation Building Right Now in Syria,” The New Republic online, September 24, 2014, available at http://www.newrepublic.com/article/119556/obamas-syria-strategy-must-include-nation-building.

FAZ| Messenger sollen in Iran verboten werden

In Iran sollen fast alle Messenger fürs Smartphone blockiert werden. Damit müssten die Nutzer auf beliebte Dienste wie WhatsApp verzichten. Es wäre aber auch eine Niederlage für Präsident Ruhani.

© DPAVergrößernIrans Justiz will Messenger im Land blockieren

Fast alle Kommunikationsprogramme auf Smartphones sollen in Iran verboten werden. Die iranische Oberstaatsanwaltschaft forderte den Kommunikationsminister auf, innerhalb eines Monats die in dem Land äußerst beliebten Smartphone-Kommunikationsprogramme Viber, Tango und WhatsApp zu blockieren. Sonst werde die Staatsanwaltschaft dies über ihre eigene Kanäle tun, berichtete die Nachrichtenagentur ISNA am Samstag.

Mit dieser Entscheidung geht die Internet-Paranoia in Iran in die nächste Runde. Die Behörde für Internetkriminalität hatte schon Anfang des Jahres ein Verbot der Kommunikationsprogramme gefordert. Über diese Programme könnten Informationen im Ausland landen, was für das Land eine große Gefahr werden könnte.

Vollständiger Artikel

The Perils of Drinking Coffee ‘Provocatively’

According to Article 638 of Iran’s 1996 Islamic Penal Code, “women who appear in the street and public places without the Islamic hejab will serve time, between ten days and two months, and will have to pay a cash fine”.

The law, however, does not define the exact parameters surrounding the “Islamic hejab,” leaving that crucial judgment up to the police and the paramilitary Basij force. This leaves a gap open for security forces to exploit, despite the fact that morally the hejab is something that cannot be enforced by law or through coercion.

Through my work as a lawyer I have paid numerous visits to the Ershad Judicial Complex, which is responsible for fighting so-called “social corruption.” I have witnessed many abuses of power, and also things that are simply not quite right.

Take, for instance, the printed form the police and the Basij use as they patrol the streets and shopping centers looking for women they believe are not properly wearing the hejab.

The form has three parts, the first dealing with woman’s hair, and includes checkboxes for ‘completely uncovered head,’ ‘partially uncovered hair,’ ‘styled hair showing’, ‘uncovered neck,’ ‘thin headscarf’ and, oddly, ‘visibility of the breasts.’

The second part applies to the use of make-up: lipstick, mascara, eye shadow, blusher, nail polish on fingers or toes and banned glasses.

The third outlines the various ways a woman’s attire may be grounds for legal action: ‘a tight-fitting manteau,’ ‘a short manteau,’ ‘a manteau with slits showing the body,’ ‘an unconventional manteau,’ ‘stockings with a banned pattern,’ ‘no stockings’ and the ominous ‘other.’

Many of the form’s checkboxes are vague and open to interpretation, such as ‘banned glasses’ and ‘unconventional manteau,’ leaving the individual policeman or the Basiji to make their own judgement on what qualifies what.

The breadth of the form also gives security forces both an incentive and opportunity to constantly scan women in public whose necks are showing or who are wearing lipstick or mascara.

Islam definitely forbids scrutiny being this close. According to the prominent 13th century Shi’a jurist Allamah al-Hilli, a proper Muslim should look at a woman’s hand or face just once and only if necessary. A second look is forbidden. With these forms in hand, policemen and Basijis have an excuse to relentlessly stare at women so that they find ways they are violating the law as far as how they are dressed and how their bodies look.

A second form is dedicated to drivers and passengers. The checklist includes ‘inappropriately dressed’ passengers, ‘passengers with make-up,’ ‘naked body parts,’ ‘tight-fitting dress’ and ‘uncovered hair.’ This form is likely to have more serious consequences than the form dealing with women’s appearance on the street, because it requires the inspection of all moving vehicles to discover whether or not a female driver or any of their passengers are wearing a tight-fitting dress or whether a body part is on show.

In 2009 a young woman came to my law offices and recounted how she had been arrested in a coffee shop as she was drinking coffee with her cousin. They were both taken to the Department for Fighting Moral Corruption. After a few hours she and her cousin were released on bail and the processing of the case was scheduled for several days later.

When I became an attorney I went to the courthouse to review the case. It turned out that they were arrested for drinking coffee “in a provocative manner.”

Fortunately when the court was convened I was able to defend them successfully and they were acquitted from this absurd charge.

Offense Type

Hair:
  • Completely Uncovered
  • Partially Uncovered
  • Breasts Showing
  • Styled Hair Showing
  • Uncovered Neck
  • Thin Scarf
Make-Up:
  • Lipstick
  • Mascara
  • Eye Shadow
  • Face Make-Up
  • Forbidden Glasses
Dress:
  • No Stockings
  • Thin Stockings
  • Stockings with Forbidden Symbols
  • Short Socks
  • Other
  • Tight-Fitting Manteau
  • Short Manteau
  • Manteau with Body-Showing Slits
  • Unconventional Manteau
  • Manteau with Forbidden Symbols

Source: IranWire

Iran Prepares for a Leadership Transition (Stratfor)

Summary

Though Iran has been broadcasting pictures and videos of top state officials and noted foreign dignitaries visiting Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in the hospital, the health of the man who has held the most powerful post in the Islamic Republic remains unclear. The unusual public relations management of what has been described as a prostate surgery suggests Tehran may be preparing the nation and the world for a transition to a third supreme leader.Iranian efforts to project an atmosphere of normalcy conceal concerns among players in the Iranian political system that a power vacuum will emerge just as the Islamic republic has reached a geopolitical crossroads.

Analysis

Any transition comes at the most crucial time in the 35-year history of the Islamic Republic due to unprecedented domestic political shifts underway and, more importantly, due to international events.

Pragmatic conservative President Hassan Rouhani’s election in June 2013 elections led to a social, political and economic reform program facing considerable resistance from within the hard-right factions within the clerical and security establishments. The biggest issue between the presidential camp and its opponents is the ongoing process of negotiations with the United States over the Iranian nuclear program.

Nuclear Talks and Syria

After an unprecedented breakthrough in November 2013 that saw an interim agreement, the negotiation process has hit a major snag, with a final agreement not reached by a July 20, 2014, deadline, though the deadline for negotiations was extended to Nov. 24, 2014. Some form of partial agreement had been expected, with talks kicking into high gear ahead of the opening session of the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York on Sept. 18.

A mood of pessimism in Tehran has since been reported, however, with senior Foreign Ministry officials prepping the media for the eventuality that the talks might fail. The risk of failure comes from the fact that Rouhani can only go so far in accepting caps on Iran’s ability to pursue a civilian nuclear program before his hawkish opponents will gain the upper hand in Iran’s domestic political struggle. Stratfor sources say Rouhani did not want to attend this year’s General Assembly, but Foreign Minister Mohammad-Javad Zarif reportedly convinced the president that his visit might help the negotiating process.

As if the negotiation itself was not enough of a problem for Rouhani, the U.S. move to support rebel forces in Syria that would fight both the Islamic State and Iran’s ally, the Assad regime, is a major problem for Tehran. U.S. and Iranian interests overlapped with regard to the IS threat in Iraq. But in Syria, the United States must rely on anti-Iranian actors to fight IS and the Obama administration seeks to topple the Assad regime. Accordingly, less than a year after the two sides embarked upon a rapprochement, tensions seem to be returning.

A New Supreme Leader

On top of this stressor, uncertainties surrounding Khamenei’s health have shifted Iran’s priorities to the search for a new supreme leader. The unusual manner in which Tehran continues to telegraph Khamenei’s hospitalization to show that all is well — while at the same time psychologically preparing the country and the outside world for the inevitable change — coupled with the (albeit unverified) 2010 release by WikiLeaks of a U.S. diplomatic cable reporting that the supreme leader was suffering from terminal cancer suggests the political establishment in Tehran is preparing for a succession. Khamenei himself would want to prepare a succession before he can no longer carry out his official responsibilities.

Before Khamenei was elected supreme leader in 1989, the idea of a collective clerical body was in vogue among many clerics. The country’s second-most influential cleric, Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, on several occasions has proposed a „jurisprudential council“ consisting of several top clerics as an alternative to the supreme leader’s post. His proposal has not gained much traction, but with succession imminent, it might seem more attractive as a compromise should the competing factions prove unable to reach a consensus.

Constitutionally, an interim leadership council takes over should the incumbent supreme leader no longer be able to carry out his duties until the Assembly of Experts elects a successor. Considering the factionalized nature of the Iranian political elite, it is only normal to assume that the process to replace Khamenei will be marred by a major struggle between the various camps that make up the conservative establishment. After all, this is an extremely rare opportunity for those seeking change and for those seeking continuity to shape the future of the republic.

For the hardliners, already deeply unnerved by what they see as an extremely troubling moderate path adopted by Rouhani, it is imperative that the next supreme leader not be sympathetic to the president. From their point of view, Khamenei has given the government far too much leeway. For his part, Rouhani knows that if his opponents get their way in the transition, his troubles promoting his domestic and foreign policy agenda could increase exponentially.

Possible Successors

The country’s elite ideological military force, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, will no doubt play a key role in who gets to be supreme leader. Likewise, the religious establishment in Qom will definitely have a say in the matter. The revolutionary-era clerics who have long dominated the political establishment are a dying breed, and the Assembly of Experts would not want to appoint someone of advanced age, since this would quickly lead to another succession.

Stratfor has learned that potential replacements for Khamenei include former judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, a cleric close to Khamenei and known for his relative moderate stances. They also include Hassan Khomeini, the oldest grandson of the founder of the republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. He is close to the president’s pragmatic conservative camp and the reformists, but pedigree may not compensate for his relatively left-wing leanings and his relatively young age of 42. Finally, they include current judiciary chief Mohammed-Sadegh Larijani, the younger brother of Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani who some believe is the preferred candidate of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.

The key problem that has surrounded the post of the supreme leader since the death of the founder of the republic is the very small pool of potential candidates to choose a replacement from: Most clerics either lack political skills, while those that do have political savvy lack requisite religious credentials. Khamenei was a lesser cleric to the status of ayatollah shortly before assuming the role of supreme leader, though he has demonstrated great political acumen since then. Khomeini was unique in that he had solid credentials as a noted religious scholar, but also had solid political credentials given his longtime leadership of the movement that culminated in the overthrow of shah in 1979. Since Khomeini fell out with his designated successor, Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, in 1987, no one has had both qualities. Whoever takes over from Khamenei will be no exception to this, even though he will need to be able to manage factional rivalries at one of the most critical junctures in the evolution of the Islamic Republic.

Source: STRATFOR

History of Modern Iran: A Nuclear Islamic Republic | BBC Documentary

Iran and the West is the name of a three part British documentary series shown in February 2009 on BBC Two to mark the 30th anniversary of the 1979 Iranian Revolution. The documentary looks at the relationship between Iran and the countries of the west and features interviews with politicians who have played significant roles in events involving Iran, Europe and the United States since 1979. The series is produced by Norma Percy, whose previous series include The Death of Yugoslavia and Israel and the Arabs: Elusive Peace.

Militant Islam enjoyed its first modern triumph with the arrival in power of Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran in 1979. In this series of three programmes, key figures tell the inside story.

Former US president Jimmy Carter talks on television for the first time about the episode that, more than any other, led American voters to eject him from the presidency. Iran’s seizure of the US embassy in Tehran and the holding of its staff for 444 days took more and more of Carter’s time and energy. His final days in office were dominated by desperate attempts to secure the release of the embassy hostages. Those who sat in the White House with him, planning how to rescue the hostages, how to negotiate their release and, finally, wondering whether anything could be rescued from the disaster, all tell their part in the story.

Other contributors include former vice president Walter Mondale, ex-deputy secretary of state Warren Christopher and former national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski. The other side of the story is told by top Iranians: Ayatollah Khomeini’s close adviser, Grand Ayatollah Montazeri; his first foreign minister, Ebrahim Yazdi; his negotiator with the US, Sadeq Tabatabai; and the founder of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, Mohsen Rafiqdoust

Second episode in the documentary series marking the 30th anniversary of the Iranian Revolution. Inside stories are told by two ex-presidents of Iran, Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami, by two founders of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, and by leading westerners including Secretaries of State George Shultz, Warren Christopher and Madeleine Albright.

In part three of this landmark series from Norma Percy and the team that made the multi-award winning documentaries The Death of Yugoslavia and Elusive Peace: Israel and the Arabs, contributors including Iran’s President Khatami tell the inside story of the West’s continuing nuclear confrontation with Iran. The film also shows a rare moment when they worked together.

US State Department insiders tell how, after 9/11, Iran played a key role in helping America to topple the Taliban in Afghanistan – only for President Bush to put Iran into his ‚axis of evil‘ immediately afterwards. Jack Straw, then foreign secretary, and President Khatami describe how Iran offered to help the US and its allies in their war against Saddam Hussein – help that, given Iran’s powerful contacts in Iraq and the West’s subsequent difficulties there, might have made a crucial difference.

Jack Straw, his successor Margaret Beckett, and Joschka Fischer of Germany describe how they struggled to find a compromise between Iran and President Bush’s hardliners over Iran’s nuclear programme. John Sawers at the UN reveals an extraordinary secret deal that Iran proposed a few years later.

 

OFAC Releases Additional Frequently Asked Questions Relating to the Implementation of the Iran Freedom and Counter-Proliferation Act of 2012 (IFCA) and Executive Order 13645

Questions Related to the Issuance of the Executive Order “Authorizing the Implementation of Certain Sanctions Set Forth in the Iran Freedom and Counter-Proliferation Act of 2012 and Additional Sanctions With Respect to Iran” and the Implementation of Certain Provisions of the Iran Freedom And Counter-Proliferation Act of 2012 (IFCA)
On June 3, 2013, the President signed an Executive Order (E.O.) “Authorizing the Implementation of Certain Sanctions Set Forth in the Iran Freedom and Counter-Proliferation Act of 2012 and Additional Sanctions With Respect to Iran.” The E.O. implements certain statutory provisions of the Iran Freedom and Counter-Proliferation Act of 2012 (IFCA) and authorizes the imposition of additional sanctions with respect to Iran. Most of the IFCA provisions target conduct occurring on or after July 1, 2013. The E.O. becomes effective on July 1, 2013.
General Questions
313 What is the Iran Freedom and Counter-Proliferation Act of 2012 (IFCA)?
288 What is the purpose of the Executive Order of June 3, 2013 entitled “Authorizing the Implementation of Certain Sanctions Set Forth in the Iran Freedom and Counter-Proliferation Act of 2012 and Additional Sanctions With Respect to Iran” (E.O.)?
Iran Freedom and Counter-Proliferation Act of 2012
289 How will the following IFCA terms be interpreted: “Iran,” “knowingly,” “significant,” “transfer,” “Iranian person included on the SDN List ”?
290 Are payments or deliveries that are made on or after July 1, 2013, for contracts that existed prior to July 1, 2013, exempted from IFCA provisions?
291 How does the Executive Order relate to the IFCA provisions?
292 What are the implications of IFCA on the provision of humanitarian goods to the people of Iran?
Sanctions Relating to Iran’s Energy, Shipping, and Shipbuilding Sectors
IFCA provides for sanctions involving activities or transactions related to Iran’s energy, shipping, and shipbuilding sectors. Lies den Rest dieses Beitrags

Campaign Posters Capture Rivalries

by Garrett Nada

In flashy campaign art, Iran’s six presidential candidates are pulling at public heartstrings and playing on haunting moments in Iranian history to rally votes. Posters are now plastered across billboards, fences, office blocks and the sides of cars as well as on Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus accounts—some of which are actually banned in Iran. Each candidate has his own buzzwords drawing on his past as a war hero, top adviser to the supreme leader, moderate cleric or peace negotiator. 

SAEED JALILI
      Jalili is a war veteran who lost a leg fighting Iraq in the 1980s—and his posters ooze with sacrifice and nationalism. His slogan, “Resistance is the key to success,” draws on imagery from a war that ended a quarter century ago but still influences politics. This poster encourages Iranians to fulfill their national duty to vote while recalling their past duty to defend the country. A hardliner, Jalili has run the most ideological campaign of the six candidates. He is currently secretary of the Supreme National Security Council and Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator. Jalili accuses other candidates of being too soft on national security issues.
MOHAMMAD-BAQER QALIBAF 
      Qalibaf is a “man of action”― and his posters gush with images of him on the job. Websites and blogs by the “Lovers of Qalibaf” depict the Tehran mayor overseeing the building of bridges, highways and parks to illustrate his slogan: “Jihadi management versus capitalism.” A pragmatic conservative, Qalibaf balances his image as a manager with security credentials. Four pictures on the left are from his days as a Revolutionary Guard on the Iran-Iraq war front.

Old War Haunts New Election

by Garrett Nada and Helia Ighani

A quarter century later, the Iran-Iraq War looms over Iran’s presidential election as if it happened yesterday. All six candidates participated in the grizzliest modern Middle East conflict as fighters, commanders or officials. Over the past month, the campaign has evolved into a feisty competition over who sacrificed and served the most in the eight-year war.
A leading candidate lost a leg. Another candidate commanded the Revolutionary Guards. A third liberated an oil-rich frontline city. A fourth brokered the dramatic ceasefire.

            During the final debate on June 7, candidates invoked their wartime experience during the “Holy Defense,” as it is officially dubbed in Iran, as a top credential for taking office. It clearly shaped the worldviews of all six, despite their disparate political affiliations as reformists, hardliners or independents.
            But experience during the 1980-1988 war is also emerging as an unspoken credential in facing the future, specifically a confrontation with the outside world over Iran’s controversial nuclear program. The debate resonated with language of resistance that echoed from the war, which claimed up to 1 million casualties.
            Iran’s presidential contest illustrates how the war generation is now competing to take over the leadership from the first generation of revolutionaries. Four out of the six candidates were connected to the Revolutionary Guards, Iran’s most powerful military organization. Over the past decade, the Guards have also played an increasing role in the economy and politics. Veterans won nearly a fifth of parliament’s 290 seats in 2004.
            The six candidates had vastly different roles. Lies den Rest dieses Beitrags

Präsident Irans in den Kellern des Geheimdienstes befragt

Die Nachrichten aus der Machtelite Irans werden immer skurriler. Für westliche Beobachter unfassbare Ereignisse spielen sich in der Periode vor der nächsten Präsidentschaftswahl im Juni 2013 im Iran ab.
Präsident Ahmadinedschad scheint es gelungen zu sein die Prätorianer hinter Ali Khamenei vollständig gegen sich aufzubringen. Zunächst als brave Marionette Khameneis bewertet, entpuppte sich Ahmadinedschad in den letzten Jahren als Marionette, deren Fäden immer dünner wurden.
Es geht um die Nachfolge Ahmadinedschads. Der von Ahmadinedschad unbedingt favorisierte Rahim Esfandiar Maschaie ist kein Wunschkandidat Khameneis. Mit seiner Ideologie einer iranischen Denkschule, statt einer islamischen Denkschule, stößt er bei den Macht habenden Mullahs auf wenig Gegenliebe. Ahmadinedschad wird nachgesagt er wolle mit allen Mitteln Maschaie als Kandidat durchbringen, der auch gute Aussichten hätte gegen Khameneis favorisiertes Triumvirat Velayati – Hadad Adel – Qalibaf als Sieger hervorzugehen.
Der 12 köpfige Wächterrat wird kommende Woche die Kandidaten auswählen, die sich zur Wahl stellen dürfen. Es heißt, Ahmadinedschad habe Khamenei mit der Veröffentlichung geheimer Dokumente zur Wahlfälschung von 2009 gedroht, falls sein Wunschkandidat nicht zugelassen würde.
Am Montag schlugen die Prätorianer des Regimes zurück. Präsident Ahmadinedschad wurde mit unter einem Vorwand von seinem Haupttross getrennt und durch Mitglieder der Pasdaran in Gewahrsam genommen. Gleichzeitig mussten seine Leibwächter Waffen und Kommunikationsmittel abgeben. Gleichzeitig schwärmten Pasdaran in der ganzen Stadt aus und befragten Ahmadinedschad nahe stehende Personen zu den Geheimdokumenten. Zu den anwesenden Prätorianern zählten Hossein Taeb, Asghar Hejazi, Chef des Geheimdienstes im Büro des Obersten Führers; Mojtaba Khamenei, ehrgeiziger Sohn Khameneis und Gholam Hossein Mohseni Edschei, ehemaliger Geheimdienstminister und jetziger Generalstaatsanwalt.
Nach den sieben Stunden „Privataudienz“ veröffentlichte das Büro von Ahmadinedschad ein Statement es gäbe keine Geheimdokumente bezüglich angeblich gefälschter Wahlen.
Dieser Schachzug sollte dem Präsidenten seine Verletzlichkeit vor Augen führen. Aber Ahmadinedschad ist kein Mann der Angst. Die Welt kann gespannt sein auf seinen nächsten Schachzug. Die Schlacht im Iran ist noch nicht geschlagen.

Source: didarsabz

 

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