Thoughts From The Middle East from Micah Halpern
Monday June 17, 2013
A new president has been elected in Iran. Hassan Rohani has won over 50% of the votes in the primary eliminating the need for next weekâ€™s run off.
Rohani was one of 6 contenders. All of the candidates were extremely well vetted. All were on good terms with The Grand Ayatollah, otherwise they would not have been permitted to run.
Rohani is being touted in the West as a reformer - and that is not true.
Rohani won for several reasons. He has the most flexible personality of all the contenders. He had a much broader electoral base than the other contenders. He crossed over ideological lines. And he was Khatami's candidate which is why he is being referred to - erroneously, as a reformist.
Rohani was also Rafsanjani's candidate, which made him a pragmatist. He bridged groups while the other candidates split the conservative vote.
In the end, and this is all that matters, The Grand Ayatollah is pleased because Rohani is someone he can work with to create domestic and foreign policies based on broad consensus.
Rohani is exactly the opposite of Ahmadinejad. One represents internal bridges, the other represented isolation.
Sunday June 16, 2013
I've Been Thinking:
There has been some media coverage about Iran pulling its support for Hamas in Gaza.
The Iranians have said they will not support Hamas because Hamas supports the rebels in Syria and Iran supports the Assad regime.
Now Sweden has also announced that they will no longer be sending aid to Gaza. The Swedes say that the funds are simply not going where they should be going. The aid was supposed to help set up real government institutions and accountability. And that has not happened.
Qatar who pledged $8 billion to Hamas has fallen way short of their pledge and they are not planning on giving any more. Qatar seems preoccupied with other issues.
It seems that the Palestinians in Gaza are in for a very long, hot, difficult summer. And I mean that both literally and figuratively.
Saturday June 15, 2013
Yesterday 50 million Iranians went to vote for president. Ahmadinejad's term has come to an end.
Six candidates ran in this primary election. In a week, the top two contenders will face off in a runoff.
Do not mistake appearance for reality. Yes, there is a popular vote in Iran, but the only vote that actually counts is that of the Grand Ayatollah.
Think of the popular election as a variable that the grand Ayatollah uses to consider when making his decision. On the eve of the election yesterday the Grand Ayatollah Khamenei said: "What is important is that everyone takes part" He was speaking live, on state television, as he cast his ballot in the capital, Tehran.
He continued: "Our dear nation should come (to vote) with excitement and liveliness, and know that the destiny of the country is in their hands and the happiness of the country depends on them."
Of the 6 candidates, only 3 have a chance. One is the mayor of Teheran, Ghalibaf, former head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and their preferred candidate. Another is the protege of Ahmadinejad, a candidate named Meshai. And the last one with any chance is an independent conservative named Jalili.
I predict that Jalili will be the next president of Iran. I choose him because he is both conservative and independent. The Grand Ayatollah can shape him and form him and direct him without outside political influences. He is the Ayatollah's type of man.
In the cases of the others there is far too much external baggage that comes with the candidates. We will see what happens in just a few days.
Friday June 14, 2013
Everyone has been preoccupied with the protests in Turkey and the fast changing events in Syria. Egypt has fallen to the back burner, but that doesn't mean that it is a country at rest.
Syria and Turkey continue to percolate and even bubble over --- and big problems continue to brew in Egypt.
A massive opposition demonstration is scheduled to take place in Egypt on June 30th. A petition launched in late May against new Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi has already gathered 7 million signatures. That is 10% of the country. Remarkable. The petition is called "Tamarod" or "The Rebel." The signers want Morsi out.
The protest has a name. It will signal the start of a new movement and is to be called "The June 30 Revolution."
Several Islamic groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood, have announced a counter demonstration. The counter demonstration will take place on Friday June 21 - the week before the opposition demonstration. If the early counter demonstration is successful and throngs of people attend, it will most likely result in pushing more secular and Christian Egyptians to the June 30 protest.
Either way, Morsi's days seem to be numbered. Along with Syria and Turkey, Egypt is spinning out of control.