The Middle East Channel

Iranian presidential candidates Rafsanjani and Mashaei blocked from election

Former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s former chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, have been barred from running in Iran’s upcoming presidential election. Iran’s Guardian Council, tasked with vetting candidates, determined the final list of candidates for the June 14 election Tuesday night, which included six ultraconservative loyalist candidates and two ...

AFP/Getty Images/BEHROUZ MEHRI
AFP/Getty Images/BEHROUZ MEHRI

Former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s former chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, have been barred from running in Iran’s upcoming presidential election. Iran’s Guardian Council, tasked with vetting candidates, determined the final list of candidates for the June 14 election Tuesday night, which included six ultraconservative loyalist candidates and two centrist candidates, and excluded Rafsanjani and Mashaei. More than 680 people registered as candidates. While Mashaei was expected to be blocked, many Iranians were shocked by Rafsanjani’s disqualification. Rafsanjani was a pillar of the 1979 Islamic revolution that led to the founding of the Islamic Republic of Iran; however, he had become a reformist candidate and was backed by the opposition Green Movement. Ahmadinejad said he will ask Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to reverse the decision preventing his ally Mashaei from running. While Khamenei could reinstate the two candidates, many analysts think that is unlikely.

Syria

Fierce fighting continued into Tuesday between Syrian government forces, backed by Hezbollah fighters, and opposition forces over the strategic town of Qusayr. According to Syrian state news, regime forces have made advances, expanding their control from eastern districts into the center and north. However, opposition fighters claim they are holding ground. Syria’s opposition National Coalition has called for reinforcements from across the country to join the fight in Qusayr. Additionally, head of the coalition, George Sabra, called for the international community to set up a humanitarian corridor. The outcome of the battle over Qusayr could determine the control of important supply lines, and opposition fighters are concerned that if they lose the town, they will lose all of Homs province to the regime. Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee has overwhelmingly approved a bill that would authorize supplying weapons to moderate opposition fighters. Though the legislation is far from being adopted, it shows greater bipartisan support for the United States to arm, to some extent, rebel fighters.

Headlines

  • Seven Egyptian security personnel who were abducted by armed militants last week were released, according to the army, due to the work of the military intelligence and cooperation with tribal leaders; however their captors have not been identified.
  • An estimated 11 people have been killed in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli in four days of clashes primarily between Sunni and Alawite residents.
  • Saudi Arabia has executed five Yemenis accused of killing a Saudi citizen and forming a gang that committed robberies, bringing the total number of people executed in the kingdom this year to 47. 

Arguments and Analysis

Rebels Without a Pause (Ursula Lindsey, Latitude Blog, The New York Times)

"In Egypt these days, young people are gathering signatures.

At the subway station in Tahrir Square, they are asking commuters to fill out photocopied pieces of paper with the heading: "Rebel Campaign: To Withdraw Trust from the Brotherhood’s Regime." It’s a petition calling for early presidential elections. 

…The petition has no legal power to dislodge Morsi. But it has moral authority and symbolic power.

It’s an expression of deep dissatisfaction with the country’s leadership. Although a majority of Egyptians, according to a recent Pew Research Center Poll, still express a favorable view of the president and the Brotherhood’s performance, most believe their lives have not improved in the last few years. Only 30 percent of respondents said the country was headed in the right direction: the same percentage as before the uprising against President Hosni Mubarak, when public confidence in the authorities was at a nadir.

The Rebel campaign is also a rejection of the entire formal political process that has taken place since Mubarak’s ouster. Yes, it is extraordinary that Egyptians today can organize a street campaign to dismiss the president – a president they freely elected last year. But this new freedom has not solved any of Egypt’s dreary daily problems: corruption, insecurity, poverty, human rights abuses. No wonder 56 percent of the respondents in the Pew poll said they were "dissatisfied with the way democracy is working.""

A Hezbollah turning point in Qusair? (Rami G. Khouri, The Daily Star)

"The most fascinating aspect of the war in Syria this month – and perhaps also the most significant in terms of long-term regional geopolitics – is the direct involvement of Hezbollah, the powerful Lebanese Shiite party and resistance group that is closely allied to Iran and Syria. The significance of Hezbollah’s participation in the battle for the Syrian town of Qusair comprises several distinct elements – its reputation as a fighting force, its political wisdom, its perception among Lebanese, its independence from Iran, and its standing in the region and globally as it identifies more closely with the Syrian regime that has been increasingly isolated and sanctioned.

Together, these factors make this a potential turning point for the organization whose history since its establishment in the early 1980s has been one of the most remarkable achievements in modern Arab political life. It can be credibly argued that Hezbollah is the single most successful political party or organization in modern Arab history, given its many accomplishments: It has transformed Lebanese Shiites from a downtrodden and subjugated community to the most powerful single group in Lebanon; it has forced Israel to end its occupation of southern Lebanon, and it has helped shape a regional "resistance and deterrence front" with Syria and Iran that defines many regional policies and confrontations."

–By Jennifer T. Parker and Mary Casey

 Twitter: @casey_mary

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