What’s Really at Stake in the Iranian Election

While Western journalists and politicians have a habit of treating the Islamic Republic’s upcoming presidential contest as a meaningful event that will shape the future of the country, it is in fact a competition among candidates hand-picked by the supreme leader for a largely symbolic position. Nevertheless, writes Michael Rubin, the outcome of the elections will suggest whom Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has chosen as a successor:

Normally, the incumbent wins re-election in Iran, and so, despite the theater of the campaign, this should mean Hassan Rouhani will win a second term. The question in this month’s election, however, revolves around the presence of Ebrahim Raisi, [a religious official] who many analysts believe could replace Khamenei, Iran’s aging and ailing supreme leader.

For Raisi to become president the ascending to the supreme leadership makes sense: after all, that’s the path Khamenei took to the supreme leadership. But, conversely, if Raisi is to lose, it seems unlikely that he could ever be supreme leader for the simple reason that the theological basis of the supreme leadership is that the occupant of that position acts as the deputy of the messiah on earth. For the deputy of an infallible imam to lose an election would be de-legitimizing for life.

This then raises the question: is Raisi really the supreme leader’s pick or is he just being promoted by Iranians falsely claiming Khamenei’s blessing? If the latter, then there is no better way to be rid of the ambitious challenger than by letting him run and delegitimize himself. Conversely, if he unseats Rouhani—the consummate regime loyalist—then that signals a relatively quick transition will be at hand for the true leadership. Make no mistake: when Iranians go to the polls this month, they may cast their ballots for a president, but the race is about anything but.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Ali Khamenei, Iran, Iranian election, Politics & Current Affairs

 

Why the White House’s Plan to Prevent an Israel-Hizballah War Won’t Work

On Monday, Hizballah downed an Israeli drone, leading the IDF to retaliate with airstrikes that killed one of the terrorist group’s commanders in southern Lebanon, and two more of its members in the northeast. The latter strike marks an escalation by the IDF, which normally confines its activities to the southern part of the country. Hizballah responded by firing two barrages of rockets into northern Israel on Tuesday, while Hamas operatives in Lebanon fired another barrage yesterday.

According to the Iran-backed militia, 219 of its fighters have been killed since October; six Israeli civilians and ten soldiers have lost their lives in the north. The Biden administration has meanwhile been involved in ongoing negotiations to prevent these skirmishes from turning into an all-out war. The administration’s plan, however, requires carrots for Hizballah in exchange for unenforceable guarantees, as Richard Goldberg explains:

Israel and Hizballah last went to war in 2006. That summer, Hizballah crossed the border, killed three Israeli soldiers, and kidnapped two others. Israel responded with furious airstrikes, a naval blockade, and eventually a ground operation that met stiff resistance and mixed results. A UN-endorsed ceasefire went into effect after 34 days of war, accompanied by a Security Council Resolution that ordered the UN Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to assist the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) in disarming Hizballah in southern Lebanon—from the Israeli border up to the Litani River, some 30 kilometers away.

Despite billions of dollars in U.S. taxpayer support over the last seventeen years, the LAF made no requests to UNIFIL, which then never disarmed Hizballah. Instead, Iran accelerated delivering weapons to the terrorist group—building up its forces to a threat level that dwarfs the one Israel faced in 2006. The politics of Lebanon shifted over time as well, with Hizballah taking effective control of the Lebanese government and exerting its influence (and sometimes even control) over the LAF and its U.S.-funded systems.

Now the U.S. is offering Lebanon an economic bailout in exchange for a promise to keep Hizballah forces from coming within a mere ten kilometers of the border, essentially abrogating the Security Council resolution. Goldberg continues:

Who would be responsible for keeping the peace? The LAF and UNIFIL—the same pair that has spent seventeen years helping Hizballah become the threat it is today. That would guarantee that Hizballah’s commitments will never be verified or enforced.

It’s a win-win for [Hizballah’s chief Hassan] Nasrallah. Many of his fighters live and keep their missiles hidden within ten kilometers of Israel’s border. They will blend into the civilian population without any mechanism to force their departure. And even if the U.S. or France could verify a movement of weapons to the north, Nasrallah’s arsenal is more than capable of terrorizing Israeli cities from ten kilometers away. Meanwhile, a bailout of Lebanon will increase Hizballah’s popularity—demonstrating its tactics against Israel work.

Read more at The Dispatch

More about: Hizballah, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden