Iran Election Guide

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Syria Snap Analysis: Regime Forces Take Qusayr --- What Next?

Footage from Al-Mayadeen TV of the regime capture of Qusayr

Qusayr did not resolve the Syrian conflict. It only highlighted that resolution is distant.

The regime is unlikely to alter this with victory in one town, achieved only with substantial help from Hezbollah. Whether the insurgency and the "West" can do so is the more intriguing scenario.

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Middle East Today: Turkey --- Uncertainty as Prime Minister Erdogan Returns to Ankara

Tear Gas in Ankara on Wednesday (Photo: AFP)Tear Gas in Ankara Square on Wednesday

PM Erdogan Stands Firm Over Gezi Park

Defying protesters, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has stood firm on the re-development of Istanbul's Gezi Park --- he said the construction of a replica Ottoman-era military barracks, housing a shopping mall, will go ahead.

Erdogan spoke from Tunisia during his tour of North African countries.

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Iran Today: Is US Pressing for Regime Change?

While Iranians are preoccupied with the Presidential campaign, including Wednesday's second debate among the eight candidates, another story --- one likely to have impact far beyond the June ballot --- has been taking shape.

In the last 10 days, the US Government has expanded sanctions against Tehran on four occasions. Those measures have not only reinforced existing restrictions on the energy and shipping sectors; they have extended into areas far removed from Iran's nuclear programme. Among the new steps, confirmed by President Obama's executive orders, are sanctions against the automobile and petrochemical industries.

Even more significant is the ratcheting-up of measures designed to cripple Iran's financial transactions. One of Obama's orders this week threatens punishment of any firm trading in Iranian Rials or even holding Rial accounts --- the step is no less than an attempt to collapse the currency, which fell 70% last year.

All of this is taking place as Iran's oil exports continue to fall to historic lows. In April, the Islamic Republic exported only 741,000 barrels per day, a 30% decline from March and less than 1/3 the amount sold in 2011.

Meanwhile, the US, Israel, and European allies are banging the drum loudly over Tehran's purported nuclear threats. Over the last week, there has been a series of "leaks" to compliant journalists, recycling old stories as new menaces --- notable among these have been stories about Iran's developing heavy-water reactor at Arak, converted in the articles to a producer of plutonium for a Bomb.

All of this begs the question: is Washington going beyond pressure on Iran to the pursuit of regime change, through the cracking of the economy? If so, does the US have a vision of who and what might succeed the downfall of the current system?

Presidential Election Watch: Rouhani's Election Office Talks About Coalition With Aref

The Tehran election office of moderate Presidential candidate Hassan Rouhani has said that there could be a possibility of a coalition between Rouhani and reformist candidate Mohammad-Reza Aref in the coming days.

ISNA reported that the coalition was likely to be announced soon.

Presidential Election Watch: Rouhani Talks About Mousavi

Moderate Presidential candidate Hassan Rouhani has mentioned detained opposition leader Mir-Hossein Mousavi in two separate tweets.

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Syria Today: Regime Claims Control of Qusayr

Reports Of Breadlines In Largely Kurdish Town Of Efrin Near Aleppo

A Kurdish activist group claims that Kurds in Efrin near Aleppo in northern Syria are suffering because of an ongoing siege by the Free Syrian Army.

Activists on Wednesday tweeted images purportedly of breadlines in the town.

There were sustained reports last month of clashes between the FSA and local Kurdish militia.

Claimed footage, from "Daraa City" activists, of insurgents evacuating women and children from Qusayr

See also Middle East Today: Turkey --- Deputy PM Apologises for "Excessive Violence"...But Will PM Erdogan?
Tuesday's Syria Today: More Than 100 Claimed Deaths on a "Quiet" Monday

Insurgent Withdrawal from Qusayr

Reuters, citing an "opposition group" from Qusayr, said more than 500 insurgents died in the three weeks of the regime assault, with a further 1,000 wounded, leaving just 400 outgunned men struggling to hold onto the town.

Survivors decided to escape in the night through a corridor that regime attackers said they had deliberately left open to encourage flight.

Hezbollah’s Deputy Secretary General Sheikh Naim Qassem said, “The Al-Qusayr accomplishment is a severe blow to the project of the American-Israeli-Takfiri [infidel] trio and a glowing point for the project of the resistance in Syria.

Qassem continued, “Today, it has been proven that betting on the fall of the resisting Syrian [regime] is an illusion....Building political stances on the accomplishments of the American-Israeli project is unsuccessful.”

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Iran Special: The 2nd Presidential Debate

Photo: Mehdi Dehghan/AP

1250 GMT: Qalibaf makes a general call for "generation of wealth" through culture, while maintaining "dignity": "We are not a capitalist society....We believe under Divine guidance we protect human freedom and dignity."

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Iran Today: Presidential Election --- The Significance of Funerals and Football

Protests In Isfahan --- Death To The Dictator

An EA correspondent in Iran offers confirmation and fresh information about Tuesday's events in Isfahan during the funeral of former Friday Prayer leader Ayatollah Taheri.

We had held back from posting the video until we received confirmation that it is genuine.

People first start chanting O Son of Hasan [referring to the 12th Imam of Shias, Imam Mahdi] destroy the oppression and dictatorship. Afterward, they chant: The political prisoners MUST be freed.

At 1.10 in the video, people in the crowd shout: Ya Hussain, Mir Hussain.

At 1.35 in the video, they start chanting: death to the dictator.

Our correspondent confirms that while moderate Presidential candidate Hassan Rouhani was present at the funeral, he left shortly after people began shouting the political slogans.

Ayatollah Taheri had resigned from his post as Friday Prayer leader in protest at the house arrest of democracy and human rights advocate Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri. Taheri was also a close friend of Ayatollah Mousa Shobairi Zanjani.

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Turkey Opinion: How to Turn The Turkish Summer into a Democratic Movement

[Editor's Note: Ali Yenidunya has also spoken this morning with BBC WM Radio --- the interview begins at the 2:09.12 mark.]

So far, the wave of protests have reflected a wider people’s initiative. People go to work in the morning and after dinner they go out and demonstrate. The protests have shown that young people are tired of politics and don't want any more government restrictions.

By the same token, however, this situation makes further demonstrations difficult to organise and direct into a political agenda. Beyond what we see on streets, Turkish protesters need a solid strategy to carry this initial surge of popular anger to wider victory. Without leaders or clear demands, there is no future for this movement.

So what does Turkey need? First and foremost, the declaration of a general strike. This is not because a strike will shake the government’s authority, but because people will no longer need to go to work and abandon in the morning what they gained the night before.

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Middle East Today: Turkey --- Deputy PM Apologises for "Excessive Violence"...But Will PM Erdogan?

Turkey: 3rd Protester Dies

Ethem Sarısülük, who was wounded in the head during police attacks on protesters in Taksim Square, has died of his injuries.

Two other people have so far died in the protests. Abdullah Cömert, a 22-year-old youth branch member of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), was killed in Antakya on June 3 during the clashes, while 20-year-old Mehmet Ayvalıtaş was hit and killed after a car driver ignored warnings to stop for protesters in Ümraniye’s 1 Mayıs neighborhood on the night of June 2.

Turkey: Protesters Present Demands to Government

Protesters of the "Taksim Platform", who began the current wave of demonstrations with a challenge to the re-development of Istanbul's Gezi Park, have put their demands in a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç.

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Iran Today: Presidential Election --- Censoring An Iranian Campaign Story

Rouhani On Iran- Qatar Relations

Moderate Presidential candidate Hassan Rouhani congratulated Iran on Tuesday evening on an important victory over its rival Qatar --- dashing the Gulf state's hopes after dominating it.

Iran beat Qatar 1-0 on the football field.

Meanwhile, Iran summoned Qatar's charge d'affaires on Tuesday over what it said was an "Arab-linked terrorist plot".

Ahmadinejad Camp to Maintain Influence in Tehran?

President Ahmadinejad's camp has been blocked at national level from continuing influence, with the disqualification of Ahmadinejad's right-hand man Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai as a candidate, but this may not be the end of the story....

The Ahmadinejad faction has put forth Minister of Transportation and Housing Ali Nikzad as candidat for Tehran mayor, and has named other hopefuls for city council seats, including Ahmadinejad’s sister Parvin and Presidential advisor Ali Zabihi.

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Middle East Today: Turkey --- 1st Death as Protests Spread

Protest in the village of Ayvalik (pop: 40,000) on Tuesday

Tonight's Protests

Thousands of protestors returned to Istanbul's Taksim Square on Tuesday night --- Turkish pipe music and singing blared over speakers as the crowd clapped and danced in a festive atmosphere.

In Ankara, residents carried out ther nightly protest of banging pots and pans, leaning from their windows, and marching in the street. Some waved red and white Turkish flags and drivers honked their horns, amid yells directed toward Prime Minister Erdogan: "Tayyip, resign!"

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