Archive for October, 2008:
By: Meir Javedanfar
This week, the head of the Yisrael Beitenu party Avigdor Lieberman shocked the Knesset by declaring publicly that the Egyptian president could “go to hell.”
He made these remarks in a speech in the Israeli Knesset on Wednesday. His stated source of anger was the fact that many Israeli leaders had visited Egypt, but in return, Hosni Mubarak had been to Israel only once. Lieberman defined Israel’s behavior as “self-effacement”.
Israel does not have many friends in the Arab world. Egypt is one of the few friends it has and politicians should not be insulting its leader in such a manner. Especially not Mubarak. He has been instrumental in talks between Israel and Hamas, as well as the current talks between Fatah and Hamas over next year’s presidential elections in the Palestinian Authority. Olmert and Peres’ apology to President Mubarak were timely and justified.
Yisrael Beitenu is a semi powerful party in the Knesset. During the 2006 elections, it won 11 seats. Its inclusion in any coalition may be key to the formation of the next government.
Therefore while condemning Lieberman’s remarks, we should also look at his motivations.
There are reports that the Egyptian Army may be going on maneuvers in the Sinai. According to some analysts, some officials in Israel sees them as threatening. Lieberman most probably wants to capitalize on this and win votes in the upcoming elections on February 10th amongst the military and right wingers.
The other factor is that his supporters, who are mostly Russian Israelis, like to see a “strong leader” who is not afraid to speak his mind. Some believe that this part of the Russian mentality. They want an Israeli Putin and Lieberman is the closest thing they have.
It should also be noted that many Russian Israelis belong to the right, because a sizeable number live in the West Bank.
Also, during their persecution in the USSR as Jews, many Arab countries were supporting the Communist administration in Moscow. This has stayed with them.
There is also the Chechnya factor. Many Russian Israelis watch the news from back home. They see Israeli Arabs and Palestinians as Israel’s Chechen problem. They believe that Putin’s iron fist policy worked in Chechnya. Now they want Israel to do the same with Palestinians and Israeli Arabs, whom Lieberman and his supporters see as a fifth column.
Over the last 60 years, many Israelis have questioned why so many Arab countries focus on creating enemies, whereas instead they would serve their people better by focusing on their domestic challenges.
We could say the same about Mr Lieberman. What people of Israel need more than his verbal cockfights with Egypt and Israeli Arabs, is focus and solutions to local problems such as poverty, unemployment and corruption. These are far more threatening. And thats where Israeli voters would most probably want to see his “strength”.
By: Meir Javedanfar
One of the most difficult post invasion tasks in Iraq for the US was formation of alliances. This was part of winning the peace strategy, which Washington wanted to implement.
However what it encountered was totally unexpected. Instead of siding with the US, many openly turned against it. This did not only include Sunnis. Even some Shiites, who were liberated from Saddam’s oppression turned their guns against American soldiers.
At that point, many strategists asked: how did Saddam do it? How did he hold a country of such diverse interests and religious beliefs together for so long?
On 28th of October, Aljazeera English ran a two part program, called “People & Power – Saddam’s tribal strategy”. It provides some useful answers.
By: Meir Javedanfar
Aradan, a small village in the Semnan province of Iran, is the birthplace of president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Its local population does not exceed 5000. Most are Persians. There are also some Gilak speakers. These are people who emigrated from the Gilan province, in northern Iran, where they have their own dialect. Aradan has an old Bazaar and a number of old mosques, which are in a dilapidated state. Its only tourist attraction is the grave of five Arab pilgrims, who died there on their way to the shrine of Imam Reza in Mashhad, in the 18th century.
Some of Ahmadinejad’s relatives still live there. Its population are understandably proud of Ahmadinejad. However, even here, the president has managed to disappoint. According to a recent article in the daily Telegraph, in Aradan:
“About 60 per cent of people are using opium these days, and about 12 per cent using crack, which will kill them within a few years,” said one official. “The problem is serious because of the underemployment; most people have only two to three hours of work a day.”
If the regime ever collapses, in my opinion, it is very probable that the start of its end will be traced back to the administration of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president. Because in terms of economic welfare, since the start of the revolution, life has never been so bad for so many Iranians.
Colin Freeman of the Daily Telegraph traveled to Aradan, and wrote a very informative article. Entitled “In President Ahmadinejad’s hometown in Iran, hope goes up in opium smoke”, it paints an painful picture of life in one of Iran’s poorest areas. I highly recommend it. You can read it here
President Bush only has a few months before he leaves office. Some see him as the only man who would take military action against Iran.
Daniel Halper of Commentary Magazine and Meir Javedanfar debate whether a military operation should be launched before Bush leaves office, or should Washington give negotiations and sanctions more time.
To read click here
By: Meir Javedanfar
When it comes to education and familiarity with Western philosophy, there are few right-wing politicians in Iran who can match Ali Ardeshir Larijani.
Holding a Ph.D. in Western philosophy from Tehran University, amongst other things he has written four books on Immanuel Kant and is one of the leading intellectuals in the field.
These days he is serving as the speaker of the Iranian parliament (Majlis). The members of parliament whom he oversees are in charge of reviewing and passing Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s policies. With eight months to go before the presidential elections, the Iranian president desperately needs his economic plans to be passed by the Majlis. Otherwise, he may fall from favor with the supreme leader.
To Ahmadinejad’s dismay, Larijani has openly declared that no economic plans or projects will be passed by the Majlis if they contribute to the country’s inflationary problems. The problem for Ahmadinejad is that the majority of his economic plans, which consist of injecting cash into the economy, add to the inflationary problems. In fact, populist spending policies without any consideration for inflationary impact are the linchpin of “Ahmadinejad-onomics.”
In the previous Majlis, Ahmadinejad got away with this policy because Hadad Adel, the previous speaker, was relatively close to him. On one scandalous occasion, Hadad Adel even allowed Ahmadinejad to break the law by allowing him extra time past his deadline to present justification for his economic plans. The extra time was given for no reason and without any promises from the president as to when he would present the mandatory report on his economic plans. This is one of the reasons why Hadad Adel lost his position. Majlis members were tired of his unwarranted leniency towards Ahmadinejad.
But with Larijani it is different. First and foremost, he does not have Hadad Adel’s connections. The previous Majlis speaker’s daughter is married to Khamenei’s son. Larijani, although well connected, does not have such a close family connection to the most powerful man in Iran.
Also, Larijani is less confident when it comes to domestic politics. He does not have a lot of experience in this sphere, which is crucial for aspiring presidents. This is why it is very important to him that the Majlis under his term does not add to the country’s economic problems. This is one reason why he has decided to stand up to Ahmadinejad’s damaging economic policies.
The other reason why Larijani has decided to take a stance against Ahmadinejad — and probably a bigger one — is revenge. Larijani has been waiting a long time to settle scores after the president, with his belligerent behavior, forced him to resign as Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator in October 2007. This came at a cost to Larijani: before this event, he was Iran’s top diplomat. In fact, he carried more weight and credibility than Iran’s foreign minister, Manuchehr Mottaki. In important foreign circles such as the European Union, there was more appreciation for Larijani than Ahmadinejad, who was seen as a loose cannon.
Despite the fact that Larijani has decided not to participate in the elections, he will still be a formidable internal obstacle, if Ahmadinejad is reelected.
This article originally appeared in PJM Media
By: Meir Javedanfar
This afternoon, Haaretz, quoting the Iraqi site Almalaf ran the story “Hezbollah chief poisoned; Iranian doctors saved his life”.
Haaretz is one of, if not the most credible newspaper in Israel. The journalist who broke this story, is Yoav Stern. He is a fluent Arabic speaker and a strict professional when it comes to the reliability of his sources.
Therefore the story could be true.
But we must be aware of the circumstances surrounding this story.
There is currently a psychological warfare going on between Israel and Iran.
For example, the other day, Iranian press ran a story that the head of Mossad, Meir Dagan has been assassinated in Amman, Jordan. It quoted a blog in Montreal called Filka Israel, which it says belongs to the Blogspot community. Later on, it ran another story which said that the news is false, and is part of a “Zionist psychological warfare”.
The Nasrallah story may be part of the same game. It is possible that the Iranians may feel that they were tricked by the Israelis over the Dagan assassination story. And now they are getting their own back with the Nasrallah poisoning story.
By: Meir Javedanfar
This morning, Haaretz ran a story entitled “Top Iran officials recommend preemptive strike against Israel”.
Among other things the article said:
“Senior Tehran officials are recommending a preemptive strike against Israel to prevent an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear reactors, a senior Islamic Republic official told foreign diplomats two weeks ago in London”.
The given reason behind this view in Tehran is given as:
“The official, Dr. Seyed G. Safavi, said recent threats by Israeli authorities strengthened this position, but that as of yet, a preemptive strike has not been integrated into Iranian policy.”
As mentioned in the article “Livni Worries Tehran”, threats by Tehran strengthen the hand of right wingers in Iran.
However, in my opinion, the biggest reason behind the strategy of calling for a preemptive strike, which I believe is backed by the extreme right in Tehran, is the US, and not Israel.
Currently in Tehran, there is a guessing game going on between the public, about the possibility that that Bush may use the last few weeks of his administration to attack Iran. In fact, Iranians are more worried about an attack from the US, than Israel. They know that Israel would not embark on such an operation, without US approval. And if the US approves such an operation, chances are that it would take part as well.
To some analysts in the West, this may be far fetched. Not to the people of Iran. There is real and genuine concern.
Naturally, the Iranian government would want to allay such fears. One way to do this is to emphasis Iran’s wild card of launching a preemptive strike. Although the mere mention of such a possibility works against Iran’s interests in the media, nevertheless, such messages show how concerned the administration in Tehran is about an attack by the US. Tehran won’t breath a sigh of relief until Obama enters office.
Why threaten Israel?
In this case, Israel is an easier target to pick on, in terms of rhetoric. To threaten US troops directly or US interests would be too costly for Tehran. Israel is one bag which has been punched many times before, in Iran’s array of threats. To the Iranians, one more punch won’t make that much difference.
By: Meir Javedanfar
Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf who has been serving as the Mayor of Tehran since 2005, is getting ready to enter the 2009 Iranian presidential race.
He already tried his luck in 2005 as a candidate, but failed to win. Winning 14% of the votes, he came in 5th. One of the reasons is because he described himself as an Islamic version of Reza Shah. Some Iranians have nostalgic feelings for the founder for the Pahlavi dynasty, and the father of Shah. The biggest reason is because he was a nationalist, and that he was a developer. He developed Iran’s roads, railways and telecommunication system. Also he was a no none sense man. He didn’t let bureaucracy (or democracy for that matter) get in his plans to develop Iran and to try and make it in to a modern country. In short, Iranians like Reza Shah, because he was a man of talk and action. In comparison, Ahmadinejad is a man of talk and no action. Or if he does anything, like reform the economy, he makes it worst.
However comparing yourself to the father of the Shah, even an Islamic version would make any politician lose great many point with supreme leader Khamenei. And this is what happened with Ghalibaf. Even though he had much better credentials as a Revolutionary Guards commander, Khamenei picked Ahmadinejad over him.
That was in 2005. Since then, Ghalibaf has improved his popularity as the Mayor of Tehran. He has just been recognized as the 8th best Mayor in the world. This is an achievement which won him much publicity in Iran. During his trip to Japan to receive the recognition, he used the opportunity to attack Ahmadinejad. Amongst other things he criticized Ahmadinejad’s domestic policies, with emphasis placed on the problem of inflation and Iran’s excessive reliance on oil as a source of income. He also criticized Ahmadinejad’s cash handouts, saying that they don’t “solve the economic roots of our problems”.
This is only a warning shot. President Ahmadinejad should expect a very tough and bruising competition . There is a queue of politicians waiting to settle scores with him. Ghalibaf should get to the back of the line. Ayatollah Karrubi got there first. There will be more people joining them.