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Iraq’s Upcoming Parliamentary Elections – Challenges and Opportunities

By: Meir Javedanfar


The Iraqi parliamentary elections are scheduled for Saturday and the Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki has a lot to win and lose from its results.

Some Iraqis see him as a strong leader, whose authority was needed to bring the country together after the civil war.

Others see him as someone who is a milder version of Saddam Hussein; authoritarian and power thirsty.

The results of the elections are also likely to have an impact on Obama’s plans to withdraw troops from Iraq.

The withdrawal is a serious concern for Iraqis, especially for Maliki.

As mentioned in a recent article in NYT:

“If Bush and Obama were to suddenly leave, then Baathist officers would surround the Green Zone and kill all the leaders,” said Mohammed Ridha al-Numani, a Shiite cleric who has known Mr. Maliki since they lived in Iran in exile in the 1980s.

Iran will also be watching to see how the new parliament will represent its interests, and so will the Saudis who also want a slice of the Iraqi pie.

What is very interesting is the entrance of Iraqi tribal leaders into Iraqi politics which the elections will facilitate.

The piece below by Alissa J Rubin of NYT provides a good description and analysis of the challenges ahead in the elections.

To read click here

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Iran’s Position Bolstered By Hamas Victory?

This article by Reuters suggests that Iran’s position was bolstered by the recent fighting between Israel and Hamas. Its worth a read.

To read the article click here

p.s – I disagree.

Posted on : Jan 25 2009
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Posted under Israel-Palestinian conflict |

Obama To Meet President Ghalibaf?

By: Meir Javedanfar


The period leading to the Iranian presidential elections is always exciting, and this time it will be no different.

According to a recent article in the Tehran based Baztab online, members of a parallel intelligence agency inside Iran have been arrested after being caught spying on Tehran Mayor and presidential candidate Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf. The arrested group was collecting information about Ghalibaf’s meetings and electioneering gatherings.

In an interesting twist to the story, the head of the counter intelligence agency that caught the group was later removed because he supplied the information to the press.

The report does not mention who were the people spying on Ghalibaf. However one can assume that the person who has the most to lose from Ghalibaf’s participation in the elections is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He may feel safe about Ayatollah Khatami’s participation, because he could assume that Ayatollah Khamenei, who is not usually in favor of reformists, may not allow him to win.

However Ghalibaf who is from within the conservative movement may pose a bigger danger. Unlike Ahmadinejad, he was a senior commander in the Revolutionary Guards, and fought in the war for the entire eight years. This is in contrast to Ahmadinejad’s one and half years on the front lines. Also, Ghalibaf is the brother of a Shaheed (martyr), whereas Ahmadinejad did not lose any close family in the war. These factors reinforce Ghalibaf’s revolutionary credentials and give him an edge over the president. 

Furthermore, Ghalibaf is seen as more moderating force in terms of economic and foreign policy. He has openly spoken out against excessive spending and populist policies of the current government, while calling for a more moderate foreign policy and investment from abroad. This is music to the ears of many conservative supporters, and those who want to support Khatami, but believe that despite his good intentions, Khamenei will never let him win.

There are two other factors which boost Ghalibaf’s chances.

One is Ali Larijani’s decision not to participate. His participation may have led to cannibalization of votes between the two.

The other is election of Barack Obama. His calls for unconditional dialogue have been heard in Tehran. So have recommendations for him not to meet with Ahmadinejad.

It is very possible that the Supreme Leader may decide that Ahmadinejad’s catastrophic economic performance and his foreign policy stance may have cost Iran too much. That his removal may be worth the price for the sake of internal stability, and the chance to reap the benefits of dialogue with the US.

Between all the candidates, Ghalibaf would be the best face saving choice. His election as a conservative candidate would allow Khamenei to choose a middle course which would satisfy conservatives at home and those wanting to approach a more moderate Iran.

Iranian President: Israeli Heartthrob?

Since becoming president in 2005, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has achieved many things. He has managed to push the economy into its worst state since the end of the war against Iraq, and also, to isolate Iran almost like never before.

His other achievement is being subject of numerous jokes in Farsi.

There are plenty of sms message flying around Iran with jokes about the president.

Here are a couple:

President Ahmadinejad appears on a general knowledge quiz.

The presenter asks him: “who was the fist Shiite Imam?”.

Ahmadinejad scratches his head, can’t think of an answer. He asks for a hint.

The presenter says “ he was known for his sword”.

Ahmadinejad looks back and says “ah thats easy. Its the Zorro”.


The presenter tries again. He asks the president:

Which prophet had a huge boat?”

Again Ahmadinejad is stuck for an answer. He says, can I have a hint?

The presenter says “this prophet had a huge boat, which he filled with animals”.

Ahmadinejad replied” ah, of course. Its Yogi bear!

And finally…

President Ahmadinejad is asked: you have 20 seconds to give three names which end with the word “allah”.

Ahmadinejad says: “Shokrallah, Hamdallah”….

…….then all of a sudden he gets a mental block and becomes stuck….he thinks and right before his time is up he shouts “Cinderallah”.

One thing the president is not known for are his looks.

But this is one quality which these female soldiers seem to appreciate.

And they are from none other than the Israeli Defense Forces.

If only president Ahmadinejad could use these endorsements for his presidential campaign.

Luckily for Ayatollah Khatami, he can’t.

To see the pictures click here

Full credits go to the Iran Dokht blog

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Posted on : Jan 18 2009
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Posted under Iran- Elections |

Second Postcard From Lebanon

By: Meir Javedanfar


The new round of Katyusha attacks by Hezbollah have increased the possibility that a second front may open in the north. There are questions about the timing and motivation of the new attacks.

What these attacks primarily show is that Iran is worried, for a number of valid reasons:

So far, after 19 days of fighting, the international community, especially the West is still not reigning in on Israel’s operation in Gaza. This does not bode well in Iran’s dealings with the EU and the expected upcoming negotiations with the US. Iranian strategists will be justified to ask: if the West is ignoring Iran now, how will it treat Iran over the all important nuclear negotiations? How quickly is this affair reducing Iran’s position vis a vi the West? What will this do to Iran’s position in the future?

There is also the question of Iran’s balance of power politics with moderate Arab states in the region. Since the beginning the fighting, numerous trips have been made by Iranian officials such as Secretary General of the Supreme National Security Council Saeed Jalili, and Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani to regional countries such as Syria and more recently to Turkey. In all such trips, through their connections, they have tried to place pressure on Egypt, while rejecting the terms of the French – Egyptian peace proposal. Larijani even went as far as calling it a “honey injected with poison”. However these statements and efforts have still nothing yielded results. Egypt is still pressuring Hamas against Iran’s wishes while the EU and US for now seem to extend Israel’s visa in Gaza.

The Katyusha attacks this morning from the north were meant to send a message to Israel that Iran still maintains its powerful Hezbollah card and reserves the right to use it, if Tehran’s interests continue to be ignored or worst, threatened. Therefore current attitudes have to change and Iran’s point of view must be taken into consideration.

However it is probably unlikely that Iran will want a full war between Israel and Hezbollah, and this is why Palestinian militant factions are being used instead of Hezbollah to launch the attacks. Such a war could cost Hezbollah politically in the upcoming Lebanese elections in May 2009. It would make it very easy for Hezbollah’s rivals to justify their claims that Hezbollah is an Iranian puppet.

Also, so far in his career, Ayatollah Khamenei has been known to be a savvy politician. He has already seen how Hamas is in trouble. Would he be willing to risk losing two assets (Hamas and Hezbollah) in one fight? Some Iran analysts would disagree. However if he is willing to do that, Khamenei may be about to make a big mistake as such actions justify claims by Israel and the moderate Arab states that Iran is an element of instability in the region and thus it should be isolated even more. In the future, this could cost the Iranians in their efforts to improve their position in the region, especially if Obama is brought around to the anti Iran camp.

It would be in Israel’s interest to contain its response. For now, Israel seems to be placing significant pressure on Hamas and is winning in the diplomatic front. Focusing on the current struggle against Hamas and winning it will do much more damage to Iran and Hezbollah, than by opening a full second front in the north.

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Iran’s Hamas Support: Reality of Rhetoric?

Some experts, such as Fareed Zakharia of Newsweek, believe that “Hamas is not Iran’s pawn”.

This analysis piece looks at:

1. Whether there is valid evidence to support claims that Iran sees Hamas as its “pawn”

2. How the current conflict impacts the US and its relations with Iran.

To read the article click here

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Iran Holds Huge Stake in Gaza War

Ahmadinejad and his allies nervously watch the Israel-Hamas conflict play out.

To read the article click here

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Deadlocked diplomacy in Gaza?

Meir Javedanfar participates in a live debate on France 24.

Part 1


Part 2


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Posted on : Jan 09 2009
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Posted under Israel-Palestinian conflict |

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