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A Loss for the “Moderates” in the Iranian Election Is Good for Both Iran and the U.S.

This Friday, Iran will hold its presidential election. Among the frontrunners is the supposedly moderate incumbent Hassan Rouhani, during whose term executions have continued at an alarmingly high rate, freedom of speech and association has been restricted ever more harshly, and Tehran has become more aggressive abroad. Elliott Abrams is endorsing one of Rouhani’s opponents, Ibrahim Raisi:

Raisi [is] as hardline an Iranian cleric as one can find. . . . In Iran he is best known for his service on the “Death Commissions” as one of four judges who oversaw the executions of 4,000 to 5,000 political prisoners in 1988. The deputy supreme leader at that time, Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, called those executions “the biggest crime in the history of the Islamic Republic.” . . . That was a long time ago, but Raisi has not changed. . . . [So] how could any American possibly want him to win?

It’s simple. Raisi is the true face of the Islamic Republic, while Rouhani is a façade. Rouhani has shown himself powerless to effect any change in the regime’s conduct and his only role is to mislead the West into thinking “moderates” are in charge. We are far better off, as we were when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was president, when there are no illusions about Iran’s regime and the men who lead it.

If there is a fair election Rouhani will most likely win, and then we can expect a barrage of newspaper stories about how Iran is moderating, modernizing, and changing—so we must not push it too hard, and should instead help Rouhani improve Iran’s economy. . . . While it would be useful to empower true moderates, tough policies that make hostile regimes . . . pay a high price for repression and aggression are far more likely to help moderates than weak policies that mean the regimes pay no price at all.

If Raisi wins, two things will happen. First, it will be evident—especially to Iranians—that the election was stolen, so the Iranian people will be that much more alienated from their rulers. The day the regime falls will have been brought that much closer. And second, the entire world will have a much clearer view of the nature of that regime today.

Read more at Politico

More about: Hassan Rouhani, Iran, Iranian election, Politics & Current Affairs

Why a Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza Is Unlikely

Feb. 16 2018

High-ranking figures in the IDF, along with some Israeli and foreign officials, have been warning that economic troubles combined with severely deficient public works could lead to an outbreak of starvation or epidemic in the Gaza Strip; their warnings have been taken up and amplified in sensationalist stories in Western media. Hillel Frisch is skeptical:

The most important factor behind real humanitarian crises—mass hunger and contagious disease—is first and foremost the breakdown of law and order, and violence between warring militias and gangs. This is what occurred in Darfur, Somalia, and the Central African Republic. In such situations, the first to leave are the relief agencies. Then local medical staffs evacuate, along with local government officials and anyone professional who can make it out of the bedlam. The destitute are left to fend for themselves. Hospitals, dispensaries, schools, and local government offices are soon abandoned or become scenes of grisly shootouts and reprisals.

Nothing could be farther from such a reality than Gaza. Hamas, which is the main source of [misleading reports] of an imminent humanitarian crisis, rules Gaza with an iron fist. Few developed democracies in the world can boast the low homicide rates prevailing in the Strip. Nor have there been reports of any closings of hospitals, municipal governments, schools, universities, colleges, or dispensaries. . . .

Nor have there been news items announcing the departure of any foreign relief agencies or the closure of any human-rights organizations in the area. Nor is there any evidence that the World Health Organization (WHO), which rigorously monitors the world to prevent the outbreak of contagious disease, is seriously looking at Gaza. And that is for good reason. The WHO knows, as do hundreds of medical personnel in Israeli hospitals who liaise with their colleagues in Gaza, that the hospital system in Gaza is of a high caliber, certainly by the standards of the developing world. . . .

Hamas, [of course], wants more trucks entering Gaza to increase tax revenues to pay for its 30,000-strong militia and public security force, and to increase the prospects of smuggling arms for the benefit of its missile stockpiles and tunnel-building efforts. How Israel should react is equally obvious. You want more humanitarian aid? . . . Free the two mentally disabled Israelis who found their way into Gaza and are imprisoned by Hamas.

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Palestinian economy