Throughout the Gulf region people are talking about the rift between Saudi Arabia (and its allies) and Qatar and the unexpected appointment on 21 June of Muhammad Bin Salman (known as ‘MBS’) as Saudi Arabia’s new crown prince. The unprecedented attempt to marginalise a fellow Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member has shocked many in the region, and there are fears that the promotion of MBS may further exacerbate the tension.For months it has been obvious that King Salman was grooming his favourite son as his successor, but few imagined that happening quite so soon.At the core of the Qatar furore lies the longstanding rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Throughout the commotion, Iranian politicians have largely kept quiet and advised both parties to settle their issues through negotiation. But if they were concerned about the inter-Arab squabbling, the promotion of MBS has sent an altogether more powerful message to the Iranians, as he is behind the war on Yemen, and seen either as a ‘reformer’ or as ‘reckless’.
Tag Archives: Iran
As voters in Iran danced in the streets, celebrating the landslide re-election of a moderate as president, President Trump stood in front of a gathering of leaders from across the Muslim world and called on them to isolate a nation he said had “fueled the fires of sectarian conflict and terror.”That nation was Iran.In using the headline address of his first foreign trip as president to declare his commitment to Sunni Arab nations, Mr. Trump signaled a return to an American policy built on alliances with Arab autocrats, regardless of their human rights records or policies that sometimes undermine American interests.
“Das ist das MIT Irans”, raunt eine Studentin ehrfürchtig, als sich eine Labortür im Obergeschoss der Teheraner Sharif-Universität öffnet. Der stolze Vergleich mit dem berühmten Massachusetts Institute of Technology wirkt beim Betreten des Raums zunächst bizarr. Das Labor sieht aus wie eine Bastelstube. Auf einem Tisch steht eine längliche Kiste, in die ein Assistent mit einem Gartenschlauch Wasser füllt. In dem Geblubber leuchtet ein grüner Laserstrahl. Doch es ist wie so vieles in Iran: Der äußere Schein trügt. Mit unbestreitbarer Kompetenz erklären die anwesenden Physiker, wie die Dispersion des Laserlichts unter Wasser von Sauerstoff- und Salzgehalt abhängt. Und ein Schaubild an der Wand zeigt, dass der Laser im Wasserbecken keine Spielerei ist: Es ist der erste Schritt zu einem vernetzten Kommunikationssystem für U-Boote. Ein Unterwasser-Internet.
In anderen Laboren der Universität arbeiten Nanotechniker, Quantenphysiker, Biotechnologen und Robotiker. Sharif, das ist Irans führende Adresse für Natur- und Ingenieurwissenschaftler. Von den etwa 700 000 Schülern, die jedes Jahr einen landesweiten “Concours” absolvieren, eine mehrstündige Eignungsprüfung, werden die hundert begabtesten an die Elite-Uni zugelassen. Mit besonderem Stolz blickt die Universität im Herzen Teherans auf ihre ehemalige Studentin Maryam Mirzakhani. Die heute als Professorin im amerikanischen Stanford forschende Mathematikerin hat 2014 die höchste Auszeichnung ihres Fachs erhalten, die mit einer Million Dollar dotierte Fields-Medaille.
So it’s a good win for the Iranian regime – and its enormous population of young people – and a bad win for Trump’s regime, which would far rather have had an ex-judicial killer as Iranian president so that Americans would find it easy to hate him. Maybe Hassan Rouhani’s final-week assault on his grim rival candidate and his supporters – “those whose main decisions have only been executions and imprisonment over the past 38 years” – paid off. Who among Iran’s under 25s, more than 40 per cent of the population, would have wanted to vote for Ebrahim Raisi whose hands had touched the execution certificates of up to 8,000 political prisoners in 1988?
The mysterious case of Reza Zarrab, a Turkish-Iranian businessman facing federal charges in New York, has grown even stranger over the past couple of weeks.Zarrab, who is thirty-three, was arrested by F.B.I. agents, in Miami, last March. At the time, he was one of the flashiest and wealthiest businessmen in Turkey. He sported a pouf of black hair; owned twenty houses, seven yachts, and a private jet; was married to one of Turkey’s biggest pop stars; and counted among his friends Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey’s strongman President.The U.S. government, however, believes that Zarrab masterminded a sprawling operation to help the Iranian government evade economic sanctions that were put in place to hinder the country’s nuclear-weapons program. Zarrab’s operation—which relied on what the Turkish government claimed was a legal loophole in the sanctions—involved shipping gold to Iran in exchange for oil and natural gas, which Zarrab then sold. The scheme, according to prosecutors in New York’s Southern District, involved moving enormous amounts of cash, gas, and gold; at the operation’s peak—around 2012—Zarrab was buying a metric ton of gold and shipping it to Iran every day. The Obama Administration protested Zarrab’s operation, which the media dubbed “gas for gold,’’ but he carried on anyway. For the Iranians, the gold was as good as American cash, and it helped shore up the rial, Iran’s currency, whose value was collapsing.
The art of the deal, when practiced for 2500 years, does lead to the palace of wisdom. I had hardly set foot in Tehran when a diplomat broke the news: “Trump? We’re not worried. He’s a bazaari”. It’s a Persian language term meaning he is from the merchants class or, more literally, a worker from the bazaar and its use implies that a political accommodation will eventually be reached.The Iranian government’s response to the Trump administration boils down to a Sun Tzu variant; silence, especially after the Fall of Flynn, who had “put Iran on notice” after it carried out a ballistic missile test, and had pushed the idea of an anti-Iran military alliance comprising Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Jordan. Tehran says the missile test did not infringe the provisions of the Iran nuclear deal and that naval drills from the Strait of Hormuz to the Indian Ocean, which began on Sunday, had been planned well in advance.
In the early years of the last decade, following the shock of 9/11, with George W. Bush in office and the U.S. military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan under way, security at American airports was beefed up considerably, under the newly created Department of Homeland Security. Travellers of all types were subjected to greater security checks, and immigration agents were more routinely frosty than they were before. Visitors of certain ethnicities and nationalities, especially Arabs and people from Muslim countries, were increasingly treated with mistrust by American immigration officials. Stories of humiliating episodes abounded and circulated widely in the Middle East. Some of them, sadly, were true.
After Donald Trump’s election, the death of Ayatollah Rafsanjani is grim news for Iran’s nuclear deal
The death of Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani comes at a potentially difficult time for Iran’s relations with the international community, with Donald Trump and his team threatening to tear up the landmark deal over Tehran’s nuclear programme. It also means that the reformist president, Hassan Rouhani, has lost a highly important ally in a crucial stage of his struggle against powerful conservative clerics.
The two issues are not unrelated. Just as the American right, egged on by Israel and Saudi Arabia, has virulently opposed the agreement, so had the hardliners in Iran railed against President Rouhani and his government for what they saw as a surrender of the country’s sovereign rights on defence and security.
The battle for Mosul has begun. For the past two years, Iraq’s second-largest city has languished under the harsh rule of the Islamic State (ISIS). Now a combined force of Iraqi army troops, Shiite militias, and Kurdish fighters, backed up by a US-led coalition of more than sixty nations, is pushing forward to retake the city. The stakes are high. Dislodging ISIS from the city where its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, declared his “caliphate” in 2014 promises to be a formidable undertaking, given the ferocity of resistance so far. But if the coalition manages to restore Iraqi government control over Mosul, it will certainly count as a major blow to the ambitions of the jihadists—even if final victory over them is still a long way off.
There are nine months until the next Iranian presidential election in May 2017, and analysts and supporters of President Hassan Rouhani are beginning to ask whether he will win a second term.
Widespread public frustration at the lack of economic benefits, after sanctions were supposed to be lifted following last year’s nuclear deal, has dented his popularity and boosted the chances of a come-back by conservative and anti-Western former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. A scandal over the high pay awarded to top government officials has also not helped the incumbent president.