The N.Y. Times reports that Iran’s leading moderate presidential candidate, Mir Hussein Moussavi, leads the incumbent Mahmoud Ahmedinejad by 54-39%. This news has got to make Bibi Netanyahu and Israeli intelligence deeply unhappy. As Daniel Pipes recently revealed, he prefers an Ahmadinejad victory. The pro-war camp consisting of neocon Jews, the Israel lobby, and Israel’s Likud rightist bloc needs the most extreme leadership possible. It is far easier to demonize a Holocaust denier than a president who might actually engage in serious negotiations with the Obama administration over Iran’s nuclear program and normalizing U.S.-Iran relations.
What could happen if Moussavi wins? First, Israel’s rush to war will be stymied if not brought to an absolute standstill. The U.S. government will want to give the new Iranian administration time to articulate a new position regarding Obama’s outreach efforts in his Cairo speech and elsewhere. The best laid plans of Israel’s intelligence apparatus will be waylaid.
That is why the Israeli foreign ministry announced a new campaign to discredit the presidential elections saying that Iran is not “a western democracy” (!). Mock hangings and other gruesomeness are planned by hardcore pro-Israel forces outside Iranian embassies and consulates. All to prove that Iran is a backward, brutal regime unworthy of being included within the family of nations. There is talk that Israel is also desperately trying to persuade women’s and gay rights groups that they should join a “human rights” coalition to demonize Iran.
Of course, this will not work, as much of Israel’s machinations do not. Iran’s democracy is certainly far from perfect. But compared to Saudi Arabia or Egypt, a few of our closer Middle East allies, Iran is a democratic paradise. Moussavi will be no friend to Israel or perhaps even the U.S., but he is not Ahmadinejad and that’s a vast improvement. The moderate candidate could even surprise many by being the pragmatic president that this moment in time calls for.
Yesterday’s victory of the Lebanese March 14th anti-Syria coalition may also bode well for the Obama administration. If the U.S. can warm ties with Syria, and persuade Israel to resume negotiations with it, then it might be easier to include Lebanon in an eventual peace deal. It would be a mistake to exclude Hezbollah from a possible peace process. But its defeat in this election diminished (hopefully) its ability to act as a spoiler, especially if its patron, Syria, gets on board.
Bibi Netanyahu’s jumped the shark. Barack stole a march on him in his Cairo speech allowing political momentum to flow the U.S. president’s way. Now Bibi’s trying to gain some equilibrium by announcing his own “major address” to the Israeli public which will supposedly lay out his “plan” to address the settlement freeze and other demands from U.S. negotiators. Anyone who has a realistic (that is, cynical) perspective on Israeli politics knows what’s coming. More meaningless platitudes, empty words, hollow phrases, full of sound and fury signifying nothing. Bibi’s trying to create some space for himself politically. But there simply is none for his bankrupt perspective. But why don’t we give him a chance to make a bollocks of it and see what happens?
Absolutely great post. Fingers crossed for Mr Moussavi!
Keep up the good work!
Yes, this looks like good news and could possibly prevent a confrontation that the region doesn’t need.
Joachim Martillo says
Israel is not Western European democracy. It is an E. European ethnocracy, and it is fairly clear that Israeli leaders serve the interests not even of the Israeli Jewish public but roll over and do tricks for hyperwealthy Zionist lobby leaders like Adelson, the Bronfmans, the Krafts, Tenenbaum, Saban or maybe even Peretz: Boston Globe: Israel’s Broken Politics.
I thought you would take this opportunity of Hizzb’allah losing the elections to admit that you were wrong. The last war did not make them more popular in Lebanon, in fact their side lost a seat.
Richard Silverstein says
I read a very cogent analysis I think in the NY Times which laid the blame for Hezbollah’s failure at its own doorstep because of its mafia-like assault on Beirut last June 5th when it routed the March 14th forces in an attempt to impose its political will on them.
Israel’s 2006 war on Lebanon had NOTHING to do with Hezbollah’s slide. In fact, if Israel had invaded a month ago NO ONE in the country would’ve voted for March 14th. Maybe Olmert & Bibi should’ve timed their wars better!
Do you REALLY think Bibi wants Hezbollah to win in Lebanon?
Richard Silverstein says
No, that was just a bit of snark (not directed at you). Bibi doesn’t care about Lebanon or Hezbollah. His money’s riding on Iran as the path to glory.
Also, ‘losing’ and ‘winning’ in Lebanon is hardly clear-cut.
Hezbollah’s ‘loss’ will be acceptable to many of its supporters. And as long as Israel doesn’t make peace with the Palestinians and war in the region remains on the agenda, even the most ardent detractors of Hezbollah will not insist on disarming the Lebanese Resistance. Who else will defend Lebanon, the boys that look pretty in crisp uniforms, known as the Lebanese Regular Army?
I wouldn’t want to be the Maronite or Sunni responsible for disarming Hesbollah, as long as the IDF is still sniffing around.
Richard (not Silverstein) says
Hizbollah did not lose a single one of the 11 seats (the same as last time) which they contested – they were solid rock Shi’a and thus predetermined anyway. The March 8 alliance ‘losses’ were from ex-General Aoun’s Christian party, allied with Hizbollah
March 8 relied too much, for instance, on 7 expected seat gains to be won by Aoun in Zahle, where there was massive in-trucking of Sunni and Christian expatriate voters, paid for by the Saudis, including free $700 return air fares.
The results were:
March 8 Alliance – 2005 – 57 seats 2009 – 58
March 14 Alliance – 2005 – 71 seats 2009 – 71
Virtually no change – the faction that included Hizbollah neither ‘won’ nor ‘lost’.
Hizbollah’s power does not come from their less than 10% seats in Parliament, but from their (and Amal’s) representation of the Shi’a (40% of Lebanon’s population vs any single one of the other 17 sects recognised – and over-represented – in Lebanon), and the fact that it was they (and they almost alone) who kicked out the Israelis in 2000 and 2006.
The facts are that Hizbollah are no longer international ‘terrorists’ (if they ever were), but restrict themselves solely to defending their own country against the terror from the south, and doing good works for the Shi’a that the Sunni/Christians in the government can’t be bothered to do.
Israel must be biting its finger-nails at the loss of an opportunity to ‘pre-emptively’ attack Lebanon and claim the waters of the Litani.
Let’s hope Ahminejad loses his place, and Israel bites its finger-nails down to the quick.
Will they then turn their attention to the nuclear agreement signed between the US and UAE and plan to bomb Dubai?
Well Hizbollah and the Christian opposition did loose because of the strange Lebanese election system, not necessarily because of lack of popularity. The reality is that the opposition got 100,000 votes more as the winning side did.
Richard (not Silverstein) says
Sounds like the 2000 US election
Well the difference is even bigger that in US election in 2000 considering the amount of population in Lebanon.
One person suggested that M8 won around 800,000 votes while M14 around 700,000.
If that is true M8 got 53 percent of the votes but only 44 percent of the parliament’s seats. Not exactly a good example of a democratic system for the rest of Middle East.
Has Hezbollah returned the bodies of the soldiers they tried to kidnap in their attack on sovereign Israeli soil?
Will a “moderate” Iranian president have any power to negotiate their nuclear ambitions. . . or is that up to the “Supreme Leader” who has never been subject to the election process?
Israel’s drive to war? Have Israel’s leaders spontaneously and repeatedly threatened to wipe Iran off the map? Or was it the other way around?
Imagine, a nation and people so cruel as to defend themselves from attack!
Richard Silverstein says
Israel almost routinely kidnaps Lebanese & others to hold them for ransom in such cases in order to try to gain the return of their soldiers. Both sides do this, not just Hezbollah. Israel also still holds many Hamas legislators which it kidnapped several yrs ago & is holding w. no valid charges being filed.
Yes, if he’s trusted by the Ayatollah.
First, Iran never threatened to do that. You’ve been reading too much MEMRI & other right wing pro Israel propaganda. Second, yes, Israeli politicians have threatened to attack Iran AND overthrow its government. And they’ve “repeatedly” threatened this.
Alas, I do imagine such a nation so cruel–or at least their leaders and generals are.
Richard Witty says
“First, Iran never threatened to do that.”
He might not have meant that, but his approved translation provided to western and Arabic press did say EXACTLY that.
Hugh Slaman says
“He might not have meant that, but his approved translation provided to western and Arabic press did say EXACTLY that.”
Do you have a link to that approved translation? The “approved” translator certainly made a grave error in that case.
Richard Witty says
Tehran, Oct 26 – Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesday called for Israel to be “wiped off the map”.
“The establishment of the Zionist regime was a move by the world oppressor against the Islamic world,” the President told a conference in Tehran entitled ‘the world without Zionism’.
“The skirmishes in the occupied land are part of a war of destiny. The outcome of hundreds of years of war will be defined in Palestinian land,” he said.
“As the Imam said, Israel must be wiped off the map,” said Ahmadinejad, referring to the late founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Imam Khomeini.
Addressing some 4,000 students gathered in an interior ministry conference hall, Ahmadinejad also called for Palestinian unity, resistance and a point where the annihilation of the Zionist regime will come.
I would advocate against offering “…the pro-war camp consisting of neocon Jews, the Israel lobby, and Israel’s Likud rightist bloc” suggestions for improving their message.
It takes ‘for ever’ to type out that phrase, but what is said is clear, and informative to the uninformed. As is your comment, Joachim.
Thanks from an humble reader.