Iran Election Guide

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Sunday
Dec192010

The Latest from Iran (19 December): The Subsidy Cuts Begin

2100 GMT: Subsidy Cuts Watch. One price rise that has not been picked up by most of the media....

While the price increase for gasoline is 300% for subsidised rations and 75% for unsubsidised fuel, the rise for diesel is about 2000%, from 16.5 tomans (about $0.15) to 350 tomans (about $3.00) per litre.

1720 GMT: Elections Watch. Legislators have changed the basis for the Parliamentary elections, setting them on the basis of provincial rather than district results. We are not yet sure of the significance of the change and will consult correspondents.

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Sunday
Dec192010

Wikileaks and Cuba 2009: Should the US Support Regime Change? (No.)

By April 2009, the long-term leader of Cuba, Fidel Castro, had been permanently incapacitated by illness. His brother Raul had taken over as head of the Government which, despite the uncertainty, had maintained its authority.

The US Interests Section in Havana had a long look at the situation to assess the possibility that dissidents could remove the Castro Government. What they saw was bleak: "There are few if any dissidents who have a political vision that could be applied to future governance....The dissident movement is heavily penetrated by state security. This penetration allows the government to play on the egos and personal feuds that are normal in any society, and exacerbate the divisions that would exist naturally among the dissidents."

So the US diplomats concluded, "We will need to look elsewhere, including within the government itself, to spot the most likely successors to the Castro regime."

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Sunday
Dec192010

Iran Analysis: Ahmadinejad Walks a Tightrope to Bring Out His Subsidy Cuts

Ahmadinejad is conscious he was walking on a tightrope. He was continously is trying to convince people, as if he could feel their scepticism. At one point, he reached out by claiming ---- rather sensationally --- that he was a freelance taxi driver, so he fully knows the plight of motorists.

The economic reality is that, whatever the merits in principles of the subsidy cuts, Ahmadinejad's approach has been haphazard and remains so.

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Sunday
Dec192010

Israel-Palestine Analysis: US Congress Blasts Recognition of Palestinian State but International Pressure Increases 

On Thursday, US lawmakers condemned the Latin American wave of recognition of the "State of Palestine". The House of Representatives approved a resolution opposing the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state, claiming "true and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians can only be achieved through direct negotiations between the parties".

The resolution calls on the US administration to "deny recognition to any unilaterally declared Palestinian state and veto any resolution by the United Nations Security Council to establish or recognize a Palestinian state outside of an agreement negotiated by the two parties".

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Saturday
Dec182010

Afghanistan-Pakistan Special: Obama's Review Upgrades Situation from "Quagmire" to "Morass"

My initial reaction to the much-touted Afghanistan and Pakistan Annual Review, both in the release of five unclassified pages summarising the study and in the unclassified video conference of President Obama and his advisors, was the one that my father and grandfather would give to any grand proclamation --- be it by a politician, a TV pundit, a salesman, a kid on the street corner --- that meant far less.

Big Damn Deal.

Perhaps that is too jaded. Maybe the better approach is to try the wit of The Borowitz Report: "Defense Dept. Upgrades Afghanistan from Quagmire to Morass". Perhaps a twist of an aphorism might do, as in this from the Afghanistan Analysts Network: "Stamping Out the Fire by Pouring on Gasoline".

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Saturday
Dec182010

Iran Video: Shirin Ebadi on Human Rights and the Regime's Campaign Against Lawyers

Nobel Prize laureate, lawyer, and activist Shirin Ebadi speaks about the human rights situation in Iran --- "Is it getting as much attention as the nuclear issue?" --- and the regime's attempt to break attorneys through intimidation and imprisonment.

Saturday
Dec182010

The Latest from Iran (18 December): A Big Event?

1945 GMT: Two Steps Ahead? Meanwhile, on the nuclear front, President Ahmadinejad is racing ahead with his "engagement" of the 5+1 Powers (US, UK, France, Germany, Russia, and China) in discussions on Iran's uranium enrichment.

Iran and the 5+1 agreed last week to further talks in Turkey in January but Ahmadinejad went further in his speech: "“I hope in talks in Istanbul, then in Brazil and then Tehran we could reach a framework of cooperation… this is to everyone's benefit. There were positive points in [Geneva] talks… I think it is time that their [the P5+1] confrontational policy turns into interactional policy."

1935 GMT: Sedition Watch (cont.). Rah-e-Sabz puts its gloss on the resistance of the head of judiciary, Sadegh Larijani, to the arrest of opposition figures (see 1650 GMT). According to the Green website, Larijani responded to those calling for the detention of Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi: "You have blamed the Supreme Leader indirectly by taking the judiciary as a shield (for your demands)."

1920 GMT: Subsidy Cuts? Yes. Ahh, here we go. Just catching up with Mardomak's LiveBlog....

IRNA's headline covered only the first couple of minutes of the speech. Almost all the statement, with declarations of Iran's potential to become a world-leading economy, was a presentation of the subsidy cuts. Ahmadinejad confirmed the chatter that implementation will begin tomorrow. He gave assurances such as the deposit of 4000 tomans (about $4) in people's bank accounts to cover the reduction in subsidies for bread. Each individual would receive a total of 81,000 tomans ($81) over the next two months.

Fars beats other websites to the punch with an article on Ahmadinejad's presentation of the "largest project in the economic history of Iran". Indeed, Fars has no less than five items playing up the subsidy cuts, with assurances that support payments for the poorest Iranians are fully-funded.

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Saturday
Dec182010

Iran Analysis: Will Ahmadinejad Succeed on Subsidy Cuts?

Ashura is so day-before-yesterday.

On to the next possible big event. Tonight Mahmoud Ahmaidinejad will go on national television to address the Iranian public about his proposed subsidy cuts. 

Later Analysis: Ahmadinejad Walks a Tightrope to Bring Out Subsidy Cuts

On Friday, as we realised that there would be no post-Ashura boom for the regime, three EA correspondents chatted about the current situation.

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Saturday
Dec182010

US Politics Video: The Daily Show on The Abandonment of the "9-11 Responders"

Last Tuesday EA's Lee Haddigan offered a detailed analysis of the power politics in Congress' "lame-duck" session, with battles over extension of tax cuts, the repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" restriction on gays and lesbians in the US military, the DREAM Act to help children of immigrants, and the New START treaty with Russia.

In the partisan struggle between Republicans and Democrats, the GOP have gotten the tax cuts, and --- against Lee's expectations --- Don't Ask, Don't Tell is likely to be repealed. But this "progress" hides what could be a tragic and, let's say it, scandalous tale of politics.

On Thursday, The Daily Show took on the story that almost no media outlet in the US considered or dared to report: the filibuster in Congress that will probably kill off any prospect of assistance to the men and women --- firefighters, police, paramedics, machine operators --- who arrived at the scene of the collapsing and burning towers of the World Trade Center on 11 September 2001. Many of those responders have died, are dying, or are seriously ill.

The full episode includes The Daily Show's darkly humourous look at the Congressional politics and Jon Stewart's interview with 2008 Presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee, in which the standard plugging of a book is soon jettisoned for Huckabee's discomfort in handling Stewart's questions. But, for me, it is Stewart's interview of four 9-11 responders which is most illuminating and moving.

Watch the US version or the UK version.

Saturday
Dec182010

A Lesson for Climate Change: History, Slavery, and the Power of the Incremental (Mouhot)

In comparison to the headlong flight towards more technological fixes, self-restraint and humility in admitting our human limitations present far fewer dangers. But could it work? Self-restraint clearly failed to abolish slavery in the American South --- nothing bar a war succeeded. But the future is not written, and we can learn from our mistakes. History suggests that in order to reduce the risk of runaway climate change, governments and people should push for incremental self-restraint while making sure people are offered an alternative to fossil fuels.  

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