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Middle East Press ( 21 Jan 2018, NewAgeIslam.Com)

There Is Something Rotten In the State of Israel By Yossi Mekelberg: New Age Islam's Selection, 22 January 2018





New Age Islam Edit Bureau

22 January 2018

There Is Something Rotten In the State of Israel

By Yossi Mekelberg

US Support and Training to Arab Forces Is Working

By David Ignatius

The Renewed Middle East Will Not Be A ‘New Middle East’

By Fahad Al-Deghaither

US Syria Policy Leaves Many Questions Unanswered

By Abdel Aziz Aluwaisheg

Iran’s Nuclear Problem Must Be Re-Visited

By Amir Taheri

The Next Supreme Leader Could Transform Iran

By Saeid Golkar

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau


There Is Something Rotten In the State Of Israel

By Yossi Mekelberg

20 January 2018

Thousands of Israelis have been taking to the streets at the end of every single Jewish Sabbath for the past two months to protest against the spread of government corruption. There has been a constant stream of media reports on police investigations of politicians taking advantage of their position to enrich themselves.

This is a widespread phenomenon that has engulfed large parts of the political system, from the prime minister to several ministers of state, members of the Knesset, and city mayors. Not a day goes by when fresh news of the mishandling of political power for financial and other kinds of gain does not come to light. The epidemic proportions of this phenomenon lead one to wonder whether the police have time to deal with any other issues, and worse, to ask: What does this reveal about Israeli society and its future? Corruption and bad governance is threatening Israel’s long-term well-being and survival.

Throughout its short history, Israel’s political system has been no stranger to corruption; however, this destructive phenomenon has gathered momentum in recent times. In the past decade a former prime minister, as well as former ministers of the Interior, of Finance and of Health, as well as a number of mayors, have been given prolonged jail sentences for taking bribes; on top of this, a former president has been convicted of rape and other sex crimes.

The level of disgust expressed by ordinary citizens at the behaviour of public servants, elected or appointed, has reached new heights, which explains the big rallies. Such gatherings have not been seen since 2011, when hundreds of thousands camped in the streets to protest against the rising cost of living and the lack of affordable accommodation, while political corruption became rife.

Top of the list of corruption affairs is the long running soap opera known as the Netanyahu family. The prime minister himself is implicated in what police suspect is corrupt behaviour in at least two major affairs, and two that took place in his close political vicinity. Even if the investigations may never amount to indictments — although there are strong indications that they will — taking “presents” valued at hundreds of thousands of Israeli shekels in the form of expensive cigars, champagne and jewellery from friends who happen to have vested economic interests in the country is immoral and inappropriate behaviour for an elected leader. Just as immoral and inappropriate is Prime Minister Netanyahu’s conversation with a leading newspaper publisher offering an exchange of political favours for economic gains. It is a sign of a leader who has been too long in power and is abusing it to support his and his family’s hedonistic lifestyle.

There is also more than a hint of the loss of any sense of judgment, accompanied by a strong sense of entitlement. Couldn’t he buy his own cigars and champagne, if only to avoid risking public exposure of this kind of behaviour? But it is not only Netanyahu. It is his wife Sara, who is constantly in the headlines for mistreating employees who work for the Netanyahus, and increasingly the behaviour of their eldest son, Yair, which is a source of concern. In a recording that has recently come to light, Netanyahu’s son is heard asking a friend, who happens to be the son of a gas tycoon, for cash to pay for a strip club, implying that it was a small favour compared to the alleged benefits worth billions from Netanyahu Sr’s help in securing a gas deal. The protesters in the streets are revolted by Netanyahu Jr’s language regarding women as heard in the recording, and also by the fact that he is chauffeured around for his nights out at taxpayers’ expense, including the cost of his bodyguards. The content of what he said while inebriated merits an in-depth police investigation.

It has also became a national embarrassment to see the shameful routine of police investigators entering the prime minister’s official residence to question him about the alleged giving and taking of bribes and the misuse of public funds. For the protesters it has put a large question mark over his fitness to continue to govern.

However, it is not just the prime minister but those around him, including his lawyers, who are alleged to have taken bribes in a deal to purchase submarines from Germany, a deal that ended up with Israel buying more submarines, at enormous cost, than its strategic needs require. In addition, David Bitan, Netanyahu’s enforcer in the Knessest and a close associate, has been interrogated by the police on suspicion of bribery, money laundering, fraud and breach of trust during his time as deputy mayor of Rishon Letzion, a city near Tel Aviv. To makes things worse, Bitan himself, before he was forced to resign as the coalition government’s whip, was pushing for legislation that would have barred the police from making recommendations to the attorney general as to whether to indict at the end of the highest-profile investigations.

It is not an isolated case that has brought people on to the streets to demonstrate, but an accumulation of such events that has left the impression of a political system that is rotten to the core. At a time when hard working, ordinary people are finding it increasingly difficult to pay the rent and make ends meet, small political and business elites are enjoying an exceptionally high standard of living and conveniently looking after each other.

Netanyahu is addressing the issue in the only way he knows — denying the existence of the problem, and accusing the media and the left of a witch hunt. Moreover, he is spending more and more time on trips abroad, thus avoiding the police while playing the statesman. In his audacity, his last line of defence is to relay a tacit message that for all his personal faults Israel has no better leader who can ensure its security and prosperity. It high time for a political alternative to prove him wrong.



US Support and Training to Arab Forces Is Working

By David Ignatius

January 21, 2018

The American military has learnt to step back and help local forces with advice and airpower

In training exercises in a mock Afghan village constructed in Fort Polk, a United States Army installation located in Vernon Parish, Louisiana, the US Army is applying the military lesson of the war against the Daesh in Syria and Iraq - Help your partners beat the enemy, but don't try to do the fighting yourself.

Letting others fight the battle hasn't been the American way in modern times, to our immense national frustration. The US military became bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan, much as it had a generation earlier in Vietnam, by trying to reshape societies with American firepower. For the military, the lesson from these quagmires is to step back and help local forces with training, advice and airpower.

Fort Polk is a final warm-up for the 1st Security Forces Assistance Brigade, one of the Trump administration's most innovative military experiments. About 1,000 soldiers are being trained here this month before deploying this Spring to Afghanistan. The preparatory exercises all focus on the same basic theme: Step back, and insist that partners do the front-line combat.

Gen. Joseph Votel, the Centcom commander who oversees US military operations from Libya to Afghanistan, brought me along on a visit Thursday to the SFAB final training site. He summed up the concept behind the new brigade this way: "We have to let our partners own it. That's hard for us to do. It's in our DNA to dive in. But our job is to help our partners fight, not fight for them."

The Afghanistan simulations are carefully staged in the military version of a movie set, with a mosque tower, goats meandering in the street, peddlers hawking flowers and posters of President Ashraf Ghani on the walls of make-believe Afghan National Army (ANA) headquarters. The idea is to make soldiers "comfortable with the uncomfortable," says Maj Gen Gary Brito, the commander at Fort Polk.

Over 14 days of training, the soldiers practice helping Afghan partners reclaim a police station from the Taliban in the imaginary village of "Marwandi" and arrest a Taliban financier who's sheltered by the local population. In one exercise, soldiers practice rescuing their comrades who've gotten caught in a firefight, applying quick tourniquets to their wounds and dragging them to safety.

At each stop, Votel listens as soldiers repeat the new doctrine: "Put the ANA in the front," says a sergeant heading for Afghanistan. "We have to remove ourselves so it's not our fight." Votel replays that unconventional message to the troops through a long day. "What we're really going to rely on is your adaptability," he admonishes one advisory team.

When the brigade moves into Afghanistan in several months, it will have 36 combat advisory teams, with about a dozen members each, partnered with ANA divisions spread across the country. Team members will be able to request supporting fire from planes, drones and advanced artillery. Other teams will assist at headquarters and in logistics operations. They will join more than 10,000 US troops already in Afghanistan.

The new brigade, cobbled together quickly with volunteers from divisions across the Army, is an attempt to deal with three issues vexing the Pentagon after more than 15 years of frustration: What works? How can the successful tactics be sustained? And how can the train-and-assist skills of Special Forces - who have been the star players in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria - be spread across the Army?

Leading this tactical review was Defence Secretary Jim Mattis, a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan. Last Spring, he began a "failure analysis" of what had and hadn't worked in the battle zones.

The new brigade illustrates a broader process of shaping military plans for the Middle East that's finally getting traction in the Trump administration, after a year of discussion and delay. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson outlined the Syria piece of this strategic framework this week at Stanford. He argued that America should keep train-and-assist forces in northeast Syria, to aid stabilisation there. Walking away from these conflict areas in the past had been a mistake, Tillerson said, but so is trying to steer local governance through nation-building.

America has been so frustrated with combat in the Middle East that people have barely noticed the victory against the Daesh, and the partnering tactics that made it possible. US collaboration with Syrian Kurds and Iraqi Shiites has made neighbouring states nervous, especially Turkey. But it achieved results.



The Renewed Middle East Will Not Be a ‘New Middle East’

By Fahad Al-Deghaither

21 January 2018

On June 30, 2013, the “New Middle East” project, which was founded and supported by the Obama administration during Hillary Clinton’s time as Secretary of State, failed and we heard nothing about it.

In fact, the project’s collapse began earlier when the Peninsula Shield Forces (1,200 Saudi fighters and 800 Emirati fighters) entered Bahrain in March 2011 to quell disorder from Iran. If there is something to thank Mrs. Clinton for, is because she inadvertently contributed in raising the awareness of the people and revealing the danger of chaos that could threaten the countries of the region if they did not change tactics.

What is interesting here and what is being discussed in the Western study centers concerned with the Middle East, that Saudi Arabia specifically did more than that on the level of foreign policy with its included risks, while internally Saudi Arabia is carrying out a huge makeover, seen in the restructuring of the economy along with the required social openness and fundamental changes to obstacles that were preventing development.

Confidence in Youth

The US had abandoned its strategic interests in the region which it had maintained for more than half a century. This is what made Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain become leaders to shape and build a renewing Middle East, and I do not say a “new” Middle East. A Middle East that does not create borders between states or divide them into entities, and does not interfere in the internal policies of other countries.

Their goal is to work on sustainable development, diversification of sources of income and looking for tomorrow. To illustrate the great difference in the priorities, we must recall what happened in the first year of King Salman’s reign, which coincided with the blatant spread of Iranian influence in Yemen.

The Saudi government’s confidence in the youth who work continuously in the royal court to follow up the vision programs, which I saw myself, shows that the promising future lies in the hands of a strong determined government insists and depends on the nationals.

This is reinforced by the return of thousands of scholars who were studying in universities in the West and East as part of the King Abdullah Scholarship Program, which enhanced the skills, knowledge and professional inventory within the country. Saudi Arabia did not hire foreigners to develop the people’s approach and behavior, but invested in the citizens of the Arabian Peninsula.

In talking about what is happening in Saudi Arabia, which is considered the center of the region, where there is lots of controversy about it in the West, especially with the recent anti-corruption campaign, most analysts conclude that it is important to pass the bottleneck. This means that Saudi Arabia’s ability and success to pass the next two years’ circumstances with the required flexibility. In 2020, Saudi Arabia will differ from the past by all standards, as per what the policy and development experts predicts, and this a good change of course.



US Syria Policy Leaves Many Questions Unanswered

By Abdel Aziz Aluwaisheg

21 January 2018

It is fair to say that US policy in Syria has become less clear as the defeat of Daesh nears completion. Some critics have called it confused or contradictory, leading Turkey, a traditional ally, to rage against that policy, charting a path of its own that is more in coordination with Russia than with the US. Turkey’s attacks on US-allied forces, of which the massive attack on Afrin this past week has been the most recent, have been recurrent. The search for peace, led by UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura, has been complicated by the apparent absence of a clear US policy.

It is probably for that reason that US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson gave a lengthy policy talk at Stanford University last Wednesday in the presence of two former US secretaries of state, George Shultz and Condoleezza Rice. On Friday, the State Department issued a detailed explication of that talk.

Unfortunately, the newly restated policy still raises serious questions. The most important element of US policy relates to its military presence in Syria. Its goal, according to US officials, is “ensuring the enduring defeat of (Daesh).” Since Daesh is still present, the military campaign is not over and there is still heavy fighting around the Euphrates River. Beyond the Euphrates, Daesh elements in northern Syria and northern Iraq have avoided the fighting. Instead, they have moved out of the combat area, perhaps to regroup and reappear later. The US believes those elements are still a lethal force that has the potential to disrupt any attempts at stabilization, particularly any political transformation and transition in Syria. As such, the US sees that the enduring defeat of a dispersed Daesh presence is an absolute requirement in Syria, as in Iraq, for any future progress.

The US solution to this part is clear — a limited, semi-permanent military presence in some areas of Syria.

A second element of the US policy — regarding political transition in Syria — is less clear. That is a process managed under UN auspices in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 2254 and the so-called Geneva I formula, which calls for a transitional authority to govern Syria while future elections are organized to choose a new president and parliament. The US is committed to that process, linking it now to its fight against Daesh. It believes that “without a transformation or transition in the models of governance in Syria, Syria becomes predictably a source of generation of future radicalism, future threat, future challenge.” The US fears dispersed Daesh elements could regroup under that name or some other name and Syria would be a source of violence, extremism and radicalization, threatening Syria’s stability, its neighbors and Europe.

Despite widespread skepticism that the US is only paying lip service to the UN process, US officials say their support for the UN is very real. They are frustrated with Russia, but still hope that Moscow could help in moving the Syrian regime to serious engagement with the opposition in Geneva to see a political transition take place. It is not clear how they plan to persuade Russia to play that role.

The third element of US Syrian policy is stabilization, which requires continued US military presence, at least in the north and northeast. US officials are careful to explain that it is not nation-building, not Iraq in 2003. Instead it is basic stuff, such as demining and the removal of other ordnances, and basic restoration of essential services that would allow populations both inside and outside Syria to return to their homes. The idea is that such stabilization is required for political transition.

The fourth element is countering Iran’s malign activities in Syria and through it to Hezbollah and Lebanon. The US believes that Iran is playing a destructive role there and it does not accept Tehran’s claim to be a “guarantor” of ceasefires, when in fact Iran presents an enduring challenge to Syria’s stability and that of its neighbors, and as such to US interests. More clarifications are needed on how the US plans to counter those malign activities.

The fifth element is the “border security force.” US officials now downplay any talk about such a force, and say it was a “misstatement.” Nevertheless, the US is providing assistance, development and training to internal security forces and elements drawn from all of the ethnic populations of the north and northeast of Syria. They link those efforts with the US military presence required to ensure security for the stabilization efforts. They are hoping to provide a stable platform in the north for positive engagement by all ethnic groups — Kurdish, Arab and others — in the political process the UN is leading in Geneva. However, with the emphasis on Kurdish populations and forces, questions are raised about those efforts, especially the stability of such coalitions and whether they could indeed lead to progress in Geneva.

The US insists it has no “strategic intent” to go beyond these parameters and does not see any threat against Turkey in the training of internal security elements. The Americans do not consider Syria’s Kurds as an extension of the PKK, which they still consider a terrorist organization. Turkey is not convinced as it continues to pummel areas under the control of US-allied forces.

What is glaringly missing from the US policy is the role of the moderate opposition of Syria, which has unified its positions on almost all issues, including those related to the transition, and can be legitimately considered to be the most representative actor to speak on behalf of Syrians. But the US statements of last week only mentioned them in passing.

While Tillerson’s talk and subsequent explanations are welcome, more discussions about the US policy with its friends and allies in the region are needed.



Iran’s Nuclear Problem Must Be Re-Visited

By Amir Taheri

20 January 2018

The decision by US President Donald Trump to prolong the lifting of some sanctions against Iran for a further 120 days has reopened the four-year old “what to do about Iran” debate.

While some have condemned Trump for renewing sanctions relief for the mullahs, others have castigated him for his call to re-negotiate the “nuclear deal” connoted by his predecessor Barack Obama.

Conducting the “what to do about Iran” debate in a calm and constructive way isn’t easy for two reasons.

The first is that the Iran issue has become linked with the United States and, worse still, more recently with Trump.

As we all know whatever issue involving the US, even remotely, is instantly upgraded for better or for worse.

No one cared when a million people were massacred in Rwanda or that an entire community is driven out of Burma through ethnic cleansing.

The US wasn’t and isn’t involved.

The European Union foreign policy point-woman Federica Mogherini travels all the way to Rangoon not to plead on behalf of the Rohingya but to criticize the US for “threatening the nuclear deal with Iran.” The Vatican calls for “respect for the nuclear deal” but takes care not to mention the word Rohingya.

See what the US does, and say the opposite

In almost every country there is an active anti-American constituency that judges every event with reference to its relation to the United States.

For that constituency the trick is to see what the US does and say the opposite.

For example, Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the British Labour Party, was briefly contemplating a mild gesture of sympathy towards the young and poor Iranians who were challenging the mullahs’ regime in Tehran a week or so ago. In the end, however, Corbyn refused to criticize the mullahs because the US had expressed sympathy for the protesters.

As soon as the Iran issue is raised it is transformed into a club with which to beat the “Great Satan” or, in Corbyn’s lexicon, “imperialist bully”.

The second reason why the Iran debate is so fraught is that it has become linked to the bitter partisan divide in US politics.

For one side of the divide, the “Iran deal” must be buried solely because it was Obama’s baby. To the other side, the “deal” must be untouched as if it were sacred writ simply because Trump has promised to jettison it.

So, let us see if we can reflect on the “nuke deal” issue” with a minimum of clinical coldness.

To begin with let us do a bit of America-bashing and Trump-trampling to reassure the anti-American and anti-Trump constituencies.

Here it goes: America is the “earth-devouring Imperialist monster” that wants to swallow such nations as North Korea, Cuba and, of course, Iran under the Khomeinists.

Next, Donald Trump is an ignoramus predator challenging such choir boys as the Castro clan in Havana, the Kim tribe in Pyongyang, and the “Supreme Guide” clique in Tehran.

Having hopefully satisfied anti-Americans and Trump-haters, let us see what is going on with the “deal”.

To start with the “deal” isn’t legally binding because it was negotiated by the P5+1, an informal group with no legal existence, no mission statement and answerable to no one. They produced a press release, titled “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” (JCPOA) in 176 pages, in three different versions, which was neither signed by anyone nor approved by any legislative authority in any of the countries concerned.

In that press release Iran promised to do a number of things to make sure its nuclear project would not have a military dimension.

Iran has fulfilled some of those promises but quietly ignored others.

The result is that Iran’s nuclear program continues to have a potential military dimension. Iran continues to enrich and stockpile uranium that, because it is of a lower grade of just over 5 per cent, is useless for medical and industrial purposes. It is also unfit as fuel because Iran doesn’t have nuclear power stations. (Its one such station gets its fuel from Russia which built the plant.

The Iranian enriched uranium is of a different code from the fuel the Russian-built station needs).

The second reason is that Iran is developing two generations of medium and long-range missiles that, because they are fitted with small warheads, can only make military sense if they carry nuclear payloads.

The danger of Iran developing a nuclear arsenal remains. (That, of course, is Iran’s right if it so wishes. But the JCPOA assumes that Iran doesn’t want to become a nuclear power).

In exchange the P5+1, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany, were supposed to do a number of things to ease sanctions imposed on Iran because of its violation of The Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT). They, too, have fulfilled part of those promises but not enough to make a significant difference as far as Iran is concerned.

Just as Iran cheated on JCPOA, the 5+1 cheated On Iran.

No sanction has been cancelled and Iran is allowed to spend only a fraction of its own frozen money with the permission of the P5+1. Because of the snap-back mechanism under which even temporarily lifted sanctions are instantly re-imposed, few people would want to invest in Iran.

The issue is not whether” the deal” is good or bad. It is that the Obama fudge hasn’t worked and is unlikely to work.

No point in turning the knife in the wound: The “deal” is bad for Iran, bad for the P5+1 and bad for the world.

The Iran nuclear problem needs to be addressed in an honest, serious, and generous, manner that would meet the legitimate demands of all sides.

That means it needs to be re-negotiated on a broader canvas. And this is what Trump, “the hateful-figure who attacks the mainstream media and uses foul language”, is proposing.

Even professional Trump-haters would find it hard to dismiss his suggestion that the “deal” is flawed and needs to be revisited.

But they must first learn to temper their hate.



The Next Supreme Leader Could Transform Iran

By Saeid Golkar

21 January 2018

In early January, Iran experienced its biggest protest wave since the suppression of the Green Movement in 2009.

In spite of shaking the Islamic Republic, these demonstrations did not produce any major political changes. Leaderless and without a clear political goal, the protesters could not sustain the initial momentum. They had no support from the political elites; even reformists didn't back them fearing "Syria-isation" of Iran or losing their share of power.

Iran's coercive apparatus did its job and cracked down on the protests with severity. This and other protest movements in the future are unlikely to win the battle with the security forces as long as hardliners call the shots in Iran.

Yet, there might soon be an opportunity for change from the top. One of the biggest barriers to change and political reform in Iran has been Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, who has stood behind hardliners and promoted conservative politics.

But Ayatollah Khamenei is 78, and according to many reports, in poor health as well. So what happens when Khamenei dies?

Who Will Choose The Next Leader?

If Khamenei dies or is deemed unable to fulfil his duties, a three-member council will take over his functions. The council includes the Iranian president, the head of the judiciary and a theologian of the Guardian Council, a conservative body in charge of interpreting Iran's constitution. They will have the powers of the supreme leader until the Assembly of Experts, a body of 88 upper-level Muslim clerics, chooses the successor.

Members of the Assembly of Experts are elected by the Iranian people for eight years, after first passing through the filter and approval of the Guardian Council.

How and who the experts of the assembly will choose as the next supreme leader would depend on a lot of factors. One of them is the ideological make-up of the assembly.

The last election for the assembly took place in 2016. Some interpreted the result as a victory for moderates, who claimed they won 59 percent of the seats and unseated prominent hard-line members. But some also saw it as a victory for the radicals, as the assembly chose one of the most prominent hardliners, Ayatollah Ahmad Janati, as its chairman with 51 votes.

As a result, it seems the assembly is divided into three main groups: pragmatists, hardliners, and independents. The independent group is the most important one because their swing votes can change the outcome. In addition, various political players will influence the decision of the assembly, including the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the office of Ayatollah Khamenei (Bit-e Rahbari), various Muslim clerics and the government.

A Chance For Change

Ayatollah Khamenei has mentioned that his successor should be a revolutionary and has asked members of the Assembly of Experts not to be "timid" in selecting his successor. His office, Iran's deep state, is likely to support a hardliner; radical Muslim clerics and the IRGC are likely to back the same candidate.

However, the current Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, who is also a senior Muslim leader and considered a pragmatist, also stands a chance of being selected as the next supreme leader. This likelihood is even higher if Khamenei leaves office or dies, while Rouhani is still president (his term ends in 2020).

As a member of the Assembly of Experts, President Rouhani has more power to lobby and influence the selection process. As a recently leaked video of the session in which the Assembly of Experts chose Khamenei in 1989 shows, a small group of members can wield a lot of power in selecting the leader. Rouhani is the most powerful man among the current members of the assembly. As president of the republic, he can co-opt and coerce the others and his bureaucratic, security and clerical background could help him set up alliances with different groups and power blocs.

He is the most experienced and respected Muslim leader on the international arena and is less ideological compared with the other members of the assembly. As a pragmatist, he has the support of technocrats and Iran's bureaucracy. He also has the backing of traditional Muslim clerics, who support the separation of religion and politics in seminaries. 

Although the IRGC commanders mainly belong to the hardliner camp, the IRGC itself is not a monolithic entity. There are a number of pragmatists in high positions within the corps, including Rear Admiral Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council. Rouhani himself has extensive experience in Iran's military and security apparatus. He used to be deputy to second-in-command of Iran's joint chiefs of staff, member of the Supreme Defence Council and deputy commander of war in the 1980s. He was also national security adviser under Presidents Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammed Khatami.

Although Iranians who want to see a transition from theocracy to a democratic state know that Rouhani would not push for such radical change, they would still prefer to see him as supreme leader than a hardliner.

If he indeed makes it to the position of supreme leader, hardliners would be sidelined and technocrats and apolitical Muslim clerics would be empowered. Rouhani has adopted his mentor Rafsanjani's model of development for Iran; he wants to see this country become the "Islamic version" of China with a strong military and economy. He wants Iran to be a country which operates independently of the West but has a good relationship with it.

If Rouhani assumes the position of supreme leader, he would not bring radical political liberalisation. However, he would improve Iran's economy and expand civil liberties for the general population. Rouhani as a supreme leader would also have the power to reign in the security apparatus and curb its brutality. These policies, which would move Iran towards normalisation and socioeconomic liberalisation would be welcomed by Iranians who do not want to see foreign intervention or another revolution.

Rouhani's bid for the position of supreme leader is fraught with challenges. Unlike Khamenei, who didn't have any strong rivals in 1989, Rouhani has many challengers and is likely to face fierce opposition. If he does win, however, Iran would likely experience a major transformation.