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


Syria’s Druze Uprising, and What It Means for the Region

When the Arab Spring came to Syria in 2011, the Druze for the most part remained loyal to the regime—which has generally depended on the support of religious minorities such as the Druze and thus afforded them a modicum of protection. But in the past several weeks that has changed, with sustained anti-government protests in the Druze-dominated southwestern province of Suwayda. Ehud Yaari evaluates the implications of this shift:

The disillusionment of the Druze with Bashar al-Assad, their suspicion of militias backed by Iran and Hizballah on the outskirts of their region, and growing economic hardships are fanning the flames of revolt. In Syrian Druze circles, there is now open discussion of “self-rule,” for example replacing government offices and services with local Druze alternative bodies.

Is there a politically acceptable way to assist the Druze and prevent the regime from the violent reoccupation of Jebel al-Druze, [as they call the area in which they live]? The answer is yes. It would require Jordan to open a short humanitarian corridor through the village of al-Anat, the southernmost point of the Druze community, less than three kilometers from the Syrian-Jordanian border.

Setting up a corridor to the Druze would require a broad consensus among Western and Gulf Arab states, which have currently suspended the process of normalization with Assad. . . . The cost of such an operation would not be high compared to the humanitarian corridors currently operating in northern Syria. It could be developed in stages, and perhaps ultimately include, if necessary, providing the Druze with weapons to defend their territory. A quick reminder: during the Islamic State attack on Suwayda province in 2018, the Druze demonstrated an ability to assemble close to 50,000 militia men almost overnight.

Read more at Jerusalem Strategic Tribune

More about: Druze, Iran, Israeli Security, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy