The Guardian: Water becomes a weapon in Iraq war

Last week, following an interview for The Guardian, John Vidal published an article featuring my comments on some water security aspects of the current conflicts in Iraq and Syria. The article appeared in the print version of the newspaper on Thu, 03/07/2014.

The same comments were then further reproduced by a number of other media sources across the world (China, Venezuela, South Africa, Turkey, Spain, Italy, and Norway). This by now rather popular article was shared by many international and governmental institutions, such as the US State Department, UNICEF, universities of Princeton, Columbia, California Irvine etc.

Below you can find the full text of the article and a number of related snapshots:

Security analysts in London and Baghdad say control of rivers and dams has become a major tactical weapon for ISIS
John Vidal, The Guardian
The outcome of the Iraq and Syrian conflicts may rest on who controls the region’s dwindling water supplies, say security analysts in London and Baghdad.
Rivers, canals, dams, sewage and desalination plants are now all military targets in the semi-arid region that regularly experiences extreme water shortages, says Michael Stephens, deputy director of the Royal United Services Institute thinktank in Qatar, speaking from Baghdad.
“Control of water supplies gives strategic control over both cities and countryside. We are seeing a battle for control of water. Water is now the major strategic objective of all groups in Iraq. It’s life or death. If you control water in Iraq you have a grip on Baghdad, and you can cause major problems. Water is essential in this conflict,” he said.
ISIS Islamic rebels now control most of the key upper reaches of the Tigris and Euphrates, the two great rivers that flow from Turkey in the north to the Gulf in the south and on which all Iraq and much of Syria depends for food, water and industry.

“Rebel forces are targeting water installations to cut off supplies to the largely Shia south of Iraq,” says Matthew Machowski, a Middle East security researcher at Queen Mary University of London.
“It is already being used as an instrument of war by all sides. One could claim that controlling water resources in Iraq is even more important than controlling the oil refineries, especially in summer. Control of the water supply is fundamentally important. Cut it off and you create great sanitation and health crises,” he said.

ISIS now controls the Samarra barrage west of Baghdad on the River Tigris and areas around the giant Mosul Dam, higher up on the same river. Because much of Kurdistan depends on the dam, it is strongly defended by Kurdish peshmerga forces and is unlikely to fall without a fierce fight, says Machowski.

Last week Iraqi troops were rushed to defend the massive 8km-long Haditha Dam and its hydroelectrical works on the Euphrates to stop it falling into the hands of ISIS forces. Were the dam to fall, say analysts, ISIS would control much of Iraq’s electricity and the rebels might fatally tighten their grip on Baghdad.
Securing the Haditha Dam was one of the first objectives of the American special forces invading Iraq in 2003. The fear was that Saddam Hussein’s forces could turn the structure that supplies 30% of all Iraq’s electricity into a weapon of mass destruction by opening the lock gates that control the flow of the river. Billions of gallons of water could have been released, power to Baghdad would have been cut off, towns and villages over hundreds of square miles flooded and the country would have been paralysed.
In April, ISIS fighters in Fallujah captured the smaller Nuaimiyah Dam on the Euphrates and deliberately diverted its water to “drown” government forces in the surrounding area. Millions of people in the cities of Karbala, Najaf, Babylon and Nasiriyah had their water cut off but the town of Abu Ghraib was catastrophically flooded along with farms and villages over 200 square miles. According to the UN, around 12,000 families lost their homes.

Earlier this year Kurdish forces reportedly diverted water supplies from the Mosul Dam. Equally, Turkey has been accused of reducing flows to the giant Lake Assad, Syria’s largest body of fresh water, to cut off supplies to Aleppo, and ISIS forces have reportedly targeted water supplies in the refugee camps set up for internally displaced people.

Iraqis fled from Mosul after ISIS cut off power and water and only returned when they were restored, says Machowski. “When they restored water supplies to Mosul, the Sunnis saw it as liberation. Control of water resources in the Mosul area is one reason why people returned,” said Machowski. Increasing temperatures, one of the longest and most severe droughts in 50 years and the steady drying up of farmland as rainfall diminishes have been identified as factors in the political destabilisation of Syria.

Both ISIS forces and President Assad’s army are said to have used water tactics to control the city of Aleppo. The Tishrin Dam on the Euphrates, 60 miles east of the city, was captured by ISIS in November 2012. The use of water as a tactical weapon has been used widely by both ISIS and the Syrian government, says Nouar Shamout, a researcher with Chatham House. “Syria’s essential services are on the brink of collapse under the burden of continuous assault on critical water infrastructure. The stranglehold of ISIS, neglect by the regime, and an eighth summer of drought may combine to create a water and food crisis which would escalate fatalities and migration rates in the country’s ongoing three-year conflict,” he said.

“The deliberate targeting of water supply networks ... is now a daily occurrence in the conflict. The water pumping station in Al-Khafsah, Aleppo, stopped working on 10 May, cutting off water supply to half of the city. It is unclear who was responsible; both the regime and opposition forces blame each other, but unsurprisingly in a city home to almost three million people the incident caused panic and chaos. Some people even resorted to drinking from puddles in the streets,” he said .
Water will now be the key to who controls Iraq in future, said former US intelligence officer Jennifer Dyer on US television last week. “If ISIS has any hope of establishing itself on territory, it has to control some water. In arid Iraq, water and lines of strategic approach are the same thing”.
The Euphrates River, the Middle East’s second longest river, and the Tigris, have historically been at the centre of conflict. In the 1980s, Saddam Hussein drained 90% of the vast Mesopotamian marshes that were fed by the two rivers to punish the Shias who rose up against his regime. Since 1975, Turkey’s dam and hydropower constructions on the two rivers have cut water flow to Iraq by 80% and to Syria by 40%. Both Syria and Iraq have accused Turkey of hoarding water and threatening their water supply.
“There has never been an outright war over water but water has played extremely important role in many Middle East conflicts. Control of water supply is crucial”, said Stephens.
It could also be an insurmountable problem should the country split into three, he said. “Water is one of the most dangerous problems in Iraq. If the country was split there would definitely be a war over water. Nobody wants to talk about that,” he said.
Some academics have suggested that Tigris and Euphrates will not reach the sea by 2040 if rainfall continues to decrease at its present rate.

Some of the over 1000 social media shares include:

BBC- Gulf diplomatic crisis over Qatar's 'interference'

In this edition of BBC Arabic's Newsnight (06/03/2014) I discuss the latest diplomatic spat over Qatar's international policies. Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates took the unprecedented decision to withdraw their respective ambassadors from Qatar. Although the tripartite joint statement refers to the alleged Qatar's 'interference' in the internal affairs of fellow Gulf states, this diplomatic crisis appears to have been triggered by Qatar's support for Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and its unwillingness to bow to the strongmen in Riyadh and Abu Dhabi.

BBC- Saudi protests and jailing of political activists (13/06/2013)

BBC- UK Parliament to vote on military intervention in Syria

On this edition of BBC Arabic Newsnight (09/09/2013) I discuss the planned UK House of Commons vote on the potential British participation in a US-led strike against Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria.

Javad Zarif and Iran's foreign policy under Hassan Rouhani

Javad Zarif and Hassan Rouhani – Iran’s Foreign Minister and President respectively – pay great attention to widely publicising the details of their foreign policy. Their unprecedented Twitter presence is a clear example of the new administration’s wish for greater international transparency and public diplomacy.

Another such effort came earlier this month in a form of a Foreign Affairs op-ed by Javad Zarif; a piece both highly informative and expertly written. It certainly joins the list of must-read articles for anyone interested in understanding both the intellectual drivers of the current administration of Hassan Rouhani and the major concepts underlining Iran’s present-day effort to end the ‘nuclear crisis’.

Javad Zarif, in a truly Iranian fashion, begins his essay by anchoring it in the basic tenets of Iran’s post-revolutionary foreign policy, which according to Zarif is:
“based on a number of cherished ideals and objectives embedded in the country’s constitution. These include the preservation of Iran’s independence, territorial integrity, and national security and the achievement of long-term, sustainable national development. Beyond its borders, Iran seeks to enhance its regional and global stature; to promote its ideals, including Islamic democracy; to expand its bilateral and multilateral relations, particularly with neighbouring Muslim-majority countries and nonaligned states; to reduce tensions and manage disagreements with other states; to foster peace and security at both the regional and the international levels through positive engagement; and to promote international understanding through dialogue and cultural interaction.”

Interestingly, Zarif goes to relatively great lengths in outlining his own understanding of the current post-Cold War, post-American unilateralist international system. He cleverly refers to the, by now, out-dated paradigms of Francis Fukuyama’s ‘end of history’ and Samuel Huntington’s ‘clash of civilisation’. Unsurprisingly, he considers those theories as deeply Islamophobic, and by extension potentially anti-Iranian.

“During the late 1980s and early 1990s, the emergence in the United States of apocalyptic theories declaring “the end of history” or a “clash of civilizations” represented a hasty reaction to the enemy vacuum created by the end of the Cold War and to the rising status of Muslims on the global stage. Through a series of subsequent Islamophobic campaigns -- sometimes promoted as official state policy and perpetuated systematically in various forms and guises -- some in the West tried to depict the Islamic community as a new ideological enemy on a global scale.”

Reminiscent of some more liberalist IR theories, Iran’s Foreign Minister advocates an international community of multilateralism, “collective action,” and “wilful cooperation”. One can decipher here some subtle post-colonial influences and Zarif’s references to historic Khomeini’s opposition to the US domination of Iran.

“Collective action and cooperation have become the hallmarks of the era. Multilateralism, the collective search for common solutions to common problems, has proved its desirability and practical efficacy at both the regional and the global levels. … Wilful cooperation has gradually developed as a new working pattern of interaction among states; it has come to replace the once predominant and now discredited pattern of confrontation, unconditional subservience, and perpetual rivalry.”

In an effort to further stress his belief in international cooperation, or perhaps to delegitimise the more hawkish factions among the American Congress, or indeed the Israeli war-hungry administration of Benyamin Netanyahu, Zarif supports his idea of multilateralism by referring to today’s world powers as being apparently “loath to use military means to resolve rivalries.”

“China, India, and Russia are engaged in intense competition, primarily with the Western bloc, in a concerted effort to secure more prominent global roles. However, major powers and emerging powers alike are now loath to use military means to resolve rivalries, differences, or even disputes. This has led to the gradual rise of a revisionist approach to foreign policy. Nation-states, regardless of their current position and power, now seek to enhance their stature and achieve their goals through a carefully balanced combination of cooperation and competition.”

Despite his revolutionary credentials and a clear support for the basic tenets of the Islamic Republic, Javad Zarif recognises that although largely popular, the Islamic Revolution of 1979 destroyed its political standing overseas and led to Iran becoming essentially a pariah state.

“The victory of the 1979 revolution, a popular, nationwide, antimonarchical uprising with a mixture of republican and Islamic traits, contributed to the establishment of a new revolutionary order in the country. The repercussions were drastic, and the revolution deeply affected the country’s foreign relations, not only in its immediate neighbourhood but also throughout the greater Middle East and in the rest of the world.”

It is precisely the process of relieving both the decades-long international isolation, and the unprecedented international sanctions regime against Iran that is now perceived as the cornerstone of Iran’s foreign policy. In a move to secure a more amicable relationship with the outside world, Rouhani’s administration chooses to even downgrade the importance of domestic politics and popular ideological anti-Western sentiments, thus risking potentially alienating itself from the more hard-line factions in Iran.

Rouhani cannot, however, be considered a true reformist. The preferred determination of his political ideology is that of “prudent moderation”, clearly contrasted with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s highly ideological policy of confrontation with the West.

“His political platform of prudent moderation and hope represented a significant turning point in Iranian politics. … Rouhani’s foreign policy platform was based on a principled, sober, and wise critique of the conduct of foreign relations during the preceding eight years under the previous administration. ... The changes he proposed demonstrated a realistic understanding of the contemporary international order, the current external challenges facing the Islamic Republic, and what it will take to restore Iran’s relations with the world to a state of normalcy. Rouhani also called for a discourse of “prudent moderation.” ... Prudent moderation is an approach based on realism, self-​confidence, realistic idealism, and constructive engagement. Realism requires an understanding of the nature, structure, mechanisms, and power dynamics of the international system and of the potential and limits of its institutions. Rouhani’s moderation brings together a profound conviction in the cherished ideals of the Islamic Revolution with an objective evaluation of Iran’s actual capacities, capabilities, and constraints. It demands a deliberate aversion to actions that are insulting, condescending, or self-aggrandizing. ... It values accountability, transparency, and honesty in dealing with the populace and implies a willingness to reform and improve existing policies. Rouhani’s approach entails a delicate balancing act: between national, regional, and global needs, on the one hand, and the available means, instruments, and policies, on the other; between persistence and flexibility in foreign policy; between goals and means; and among various instruments of power in a dynamically changing world. Finally, Rouhani’s commitment to constructive engagement requires dialogue and interaction with other nations on an equal footing, with mutual respect, and in the service of shared interests. It requires that all participants make serious efforts to reduce tensions, build confidence, and achieve détente.”

“Dignity, rationality, and prudence” are the core principles of the administration’s effort to strengthen Iran’s role in the multilateral international system. A system that, according to Zarif, is still ridden by oppression and “Zionist encroachments in the Muslim world.” His reference to spreading “Iranian-Islamic culture … and Islamic democracy as a form of governance” uncomfortably reminds, albeit perhaps only rhetorically, of the earlier revolutionary ideals of exporting the revolution that dominated Iran’s foreign and defence policy of the 1980s.

“Iran’s policies will be guided by the principles of dignity, rationality, and prudence. ... Iran will expand and deepen its bilateral and multilateral relations through meaningful engagement. ... Multilateralism will play a central role in Iran’s external relations. ... to promote Iranian-Islamic culture, the Persian language, Islamic values, and Islamic democracy as a form of governance. Third, Iran will continue to support the cause of oppressed people across the world, especially in Palestine, and will continue its principled rejection of Zionist encroachments in the Muslim world.”

Finally, such a direct explication of Iran’s foreign policy under Rouhani would not be complete without an all-out denial of Iran’s alleged desire for nuclear arsenal. It is certainly reassuring to know that as far as Iran is concerned the current P5+1 negotiations apparently face no “insurmountable barriers”. It is however, easier said than done, and the next two months will undoubtedly provide a real-time check of Zarif and Rouhani’s sincerity.

"The top priority is to diffuse and ultimately defeat the international anti-Iranian campaign, spearheaded by Israel and its American benefactors, who seek to “securitize” Iran -- that is, to delegitimize the Islamic Republic by portraying it as a threat to the global order. ... Iran has no interest in nuclear weapons and is convinced that such weapons would not enhance its security. Iran does not have the means to engage in nuclear deterrence -- directly or through proxies -- against its adversaries. Furthermore, the Iranian government believes that even a perception that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons is detrimental to the country’s security and to its regional role, since attempts by Iran to gain strategic superiority in the Persian Gulf would inevitably provoke responses that would diminish Iran’s conventional military advantage. Therefore, the on-going negotiations over the nuclear issue face no insurmountable barriers.”

The Voice of Russia: Iran gains ground against Western sanctions designations

As the US is planning to the tighten economic sanctions on Iran, the Voice of Russia asked Matthew Machowski, a research fellow in the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of London, about the implications of such sanctions on the Iranian economy and President-to-be Hassan Rowhani's reponse.


First of all, it is important to remember that the new sanctions package has not yet been agreed and the Senate’s Commission on Foreign Relations have confirmed that they will only consider the case after the parliamentary recess later in September and once the new president Hassan Rouhani finally inaugurates his administration. Only then will the Senate consider whether they do want to impose further sanctions.

But this is very important. It will further strengthen the dire state in which the Iranian economy is now. However one must remember that Iran has been under sanctions for decades. So, this is not something that they are entirely unaccustomed to. Moreover, we’ve now seen more and more signs of the sanctions regime crumbling a bit in the last month.

The British Supreme Court has judged that imposing sanctions on Iranian Bank Mellat, which is one of Iran’s biggest lenders, was illegal, ‘arbitrary and irrational’. The EU General Court, which is the European Union’s penultimate court of appeal, has also adjudicated recently that the European Union has not provided enough evidence to the court that sanctions on that bank should in fact be imposed. So, there are major questions to be asked about the sanctions regime.

Iran’s economy is definitely in a very dire state. According to the latest International Monitory Fund data, the Iranian economy has contracted last year by 1.9%, this year by further 1.3%, and the Fund estimates it will further contract by another 1.1%. According to very latest data released by Iran’s parliamentary research body, the point-to-point inflation for May to June reached a record high 61%. This is in comparison to an average monthly point-to-point inflation last year of about 25.4%. So, the economy in Iran is in a very bad situation.

Should the sanctions be imposed, there is a possibility that the to the country will suffer more. But when it comes to international sanctions, or especially in the case of US unilateral sanctions, it is important to remember that the effectiveness of that regime is dependent on the willingness of American allies around the world to subscribe to these sanctions. The US may eventually have to go after Chinese, Indian or Japanese companies if it really wants to impose a complete ban on Iranian oil sales by 2015, as they have announced.

Recently we have learned that Iran is to start exporting gas to Iraq and this will have a major added impact. Iran agreed to export over 25 million cubic meters of gas per day and this will lead to an additional Iranian income of about $4 billion. So, the effectiveness of sanctions is always under question.

It is also very good news to see over 130 American law makers issuing an open letter to the American presidential administration urging them to refocus and restart a real process of negotiation with Iran. Several calls were also made by some very senior former members of the administration, one of them Zbigniew Brzezinski, the former National Security Advisor.

This is very important and it definitely plays into, I would argue, the hands of the Obama administration, which in my opinion is keen to see what happens once Hassan Rowhani is finally in office. It is only then that we will be able to judge whether Iran is willing to come up with new concessions, is willing to provide more transparency, and is willing to negotiate with the US and its Western partners.

Finally, the US decision to ease their restrictions on imports of medical-related and agricultural products into Iran will be met with approval from President-Elect Rouhani. This is a positive development that allows Rouhani to claim some openness on the part of the Americans and their apparent will to come back to the negotiating table.

Read the original opinion piece under this link.

Kto wygra wybory w Iranie?

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad skończył właśnie dwie kadencje prezydenckie - osiem lat u władzy w Iranie. Jego prezydentura doprowadziła do jeszcze bardziej zaciętej walki dyplomatycznej pomiędzy Iranem a światem Zachodnim i znacznej deprecjacji irańskiej gospodarki. Jego negowanie prawdziwości holokaustu i niepohamowana retoryka nienawiści doprowadziła wielu w Tel Avivie i Waszyngtonie do coraz bardziej zagożałej kampanii dążącej do ataku na irańskie instalacje nuklearne i ostatecznego zniszczenia reżimu klerykalnego w Teheranie.

Dzisiejsze wybory prezydenckie w Iranie to dzień szczególny. Wszyscy kandydaci dopuszczeni przez Radę Strażników Konstytucji – grono 12-stu islamskich prawników wyselekcjonowanych przez Najwyższego Przywódcę Iranu Ajatollaha Ali Khamane’i i irański parlament – do udziału w wyborach chcą zerwania ze stylem polityki Mahmouda Ahmedinejada.

Warto jednak pamiętać, że rola irańskiego prezydenta w kwestiach polityki zagranicznej, bezpieczeństwa narodowego, czy też negocjacji międzynarodowych w sprawach nuklearnych jest niezmiernie ograniczona. Zgodnie z irańską konstytucją i regułą velayat-i-faqih (kuratelą islamskich prawników) to Ali Khamane’i – najwyższy przywódca religijny kraju – decyduje o niemal wszystkich sprawach najwyższej wagi państwowej. Wynik dzisiejszych wyborów mógłby jedynie pomóc zmienić ton z jakim prowadzi się obecne negocjacje międzynarodowe.

Do przedwczoraj sytacja była raczej jasna - wybory prezydenckie przypominały bardziej walkę pomiędzy neo-principlistami (ultrakonserwatyści) o głos Najwyższego Przywódcy niż prawdziwe demokratyczne wybory prezydenckie. Dziś jednak on sam nie poparł oficjalnie żadnego z kandydatów. Konserwatyści mają obecnie ogromny problem bo nawet ci, którzy stworzyli koalicje wyborcze, tak jak to miało miejsce z Koalicją 2+1 Velayati i Ghalibaf'a, nie są wstanie zjednoczyć ruchu konserwatywnego.

To może być dla nich bardzo bolesne w obecnej sytacji, gdzie od dwóch dni Hassan Rowhani staje się coraz silniejszym reprezentantem bloku reformacyjnego. Rowhani pomimo że jest politykiem centrystycznym i członkiem irańskigo kleru stał się w ostatnich dwóch dniach wizerunkiem ruchu reform. Sam też zaczął on nawoływać do zmiany obecnych stosunków międzynarodowych z Zachodem, uwolnienia więźniow politycznych i obalenia obecnej ideologii oporu względem Stanów Zjednoczonych. Zgodnie z paroma badaniami opinii publicznej to on jest obecnie na czele w wyborach. Badania te niemniej jednak nie są bardzo wiarygodne.

Do niedawna Saeed Jalili, obecny sekretarz Najwyższej Rady Bezpieczeństwa Narodowego Iranu i irański negocjator w sprawach nuklearnych uważany był za najważniejszego kandydata bloku ultrakonserwatywnego i faworyta przywódcy religijnego Iranu. Dziś jednak Mohammed Ghalibaf jest coraz bardziej prawdopodobnym zwycięzcą wyborów. Ten charyzmatyczny technokrat i burmistrz Teheranu ma bardzo duże poparcie w stolicy, jak i też w reszcie kraju. Wielu irańczyków cierpi obecnie przez sankcje międzynarodowe względem Iranu. To oni mówią dziś, że rok 2013 to nie czas na ideologie i opór względem zachodu, ale czas na naprawę irańskiej gospodarki i lepszą sytuację finansową w kraju.

Saeed Jalili ma mało do zaoferowania tym, którzy chcą naprawy stosunków z Zachodem. Jego mottem jest opór „amerykańskiemu szatanowi”. Dla Jalili’ego sankcje gospodarcze to dar dla irańskiej ekonomii, która w jego oczach musi stać się całkowicie samowystarczalna i niezależna od innych państw. W czasach społeczeństwa globalnego taka ideologia to recepta na dalsze pogłębienie kryzysu ekonomicznego i politycznego. To również ideologiczny powrót do obalonej pod koniec lat 80-tych rewolucyjnej polityki „Ani Zachód, ani Wschód”, przy użyciu której imam Khomeini próbował odizolować całkowicie Iran od świata zewnętrznego i typowego dla Zimnej Wojny sporu o wpływy w świecie między Stanami Zjednoczonymi i Związkiem Radzieckim.

Z kolei Mohammed Ghalibaf to businessman, menadżer, i polityk zainteresowany bardziej polityką wewnętrzną i gospodarką Iranu, niż programem nuklearnym czy też sporem z USA. Jego kadencja jako burmistrz Teheranu to czas wielu inwestycji. Ma on reputację polityka, który skutecznie doprowadza do końca swoje projekty. Jako burmistrz wydłużył on między innymi teherańskie metro i autostrady, wybudował dziesięciokilometrowy tunel     łączący ze sobą dwie glówne arterie dróg w stolicy. Jest to całkowicie zrozumiałe, że w tak trudnych ekonomicznie czasach w Iranie jego menadżerski sukces zdobywa mu wielu zwolenników w całym kraju. Nawet pomimo jego przeszłości w Gwardii Rewolucyjnej.

Mohammed Reza Bahonar, pierwszy vice-marszałek irańskiego parlamentu, powiedział dzisiaj że tegoroczne wybory prezydenckie zostaną „z całą pewnością” roztrzygnięte w drugiej rundzie, która zgodnie z planem powinna mieć miejsce w przyszły piątek 24-ego czerwca. Irańskie prawo wyborcze mówi, że w sytuacji gdzie żaden z kandydatów nie zdobędzie 50.1% głosów, druga runda wyborów zostaje rozpisana pomiędzy dwoma najbardziej popularnymi kandydatami.

Jeżeli faktycznie dojdzie do sytuacji, gdzie Hassan Rowhani przejdzie do drugiej rundy wyborów, atmosfera na irańskich ulicach może sie drastycznie zmienić. Pomimo, że do niedawna nie spodziewaliśmy sie protestów na miarę ostatniej Zielonej Rewolucji 2009-ego roku, w ciągu ostatnich dwóch dni kampanii wyborczej wiece Hassana Rowhani coraz bardziej przypominały kampanię Mira Hossein Mousavi i Mehdiego Karroubi cztery lata temu. „Jeżeli nas oszukacie to Iran przemieni się znowu w pola bitwy,” wiwatowali ostatnio zwolennicy reform popierający Hassana Rowhani.

Dzisiejsze wybory to rownież czas bardziej osobistej decyzji dla wielu Irańczykow, którzy są coraz bardziej pozbawieni złudzeń o demokracji w Iranie. Wielu szczególnie młodych mieszkańców Teheranu, Mashadu, czy Isfahanu musi zadecydować czy warto znowu pójść do urny wyborczej. Większość irańczyków jest przekonana o tym, że dzisiejsze wybory nie są ani wolne ani uczciwe. Nawet główny komisarz polityczny Irańskiej Gwardii Rewolucyjnej zapewnił wczoraj, że określenie „wolne i uczciwe wybory” to jedynie „propaganda szatańska Stanów Zjednoczonych”. Dla wielu islamistów wokół Ajatollaha Khamane’i „wolne i uczciwe wybory” to recepta na bunt i rebelie przeciwko reżimowi islamskiemu. Bez względu na wyniki wyborów już sama obecne sytuacja, w której Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani – były prezydent Iranu i jeden z założycieli Rewolucyjnej Republiki Islamskiej – pozbawiony został swojego prawa do uczestniczenia w wyborach, wskazuje na to jak mało demokratyczny jest cały ten proces.

Ajatollah Khamanei nawoływał ostanio wszystkich irańczyków do udziału w wyborach. W bardzo bezprecedensowy sposób prosił on rownież tych, którzy nie popierają obecnego reżimu klerykalnego do oddania swojego głosu. Dla przywódcy Iranu jest to niezmiernie ważne gdyż duża frekwencja wyborcza jest w jego oczach dodatkową legitimizacją obecnego reżimu i potwierdzeniem jego popularności. To dlatego wielu z członków Zielonej Rewolucji nie uda się dzisiaj do lokali wyborczych.

Democracy vs Authoritarianism in Iran

Italian think-tank ISPI (Istituto per gli Studi di Politica Internazionale) has recently published a very useful graphic representation of Iran's Dual Power Structure. The struggle between democracy and authoritarianism (theocracy) has constantly been at the very base of Iran's political life since the Islamic Revolution.

Credit: ISPI (Istituto per gli Studi di Politica Internazionale)

RT Arabic: Qatar's power transition - a powerful message to the Gulf states

باحث في الشؤون السياسية: إقدام أمير قطر على نقل السلطة من شأنه أن يؤثر على الحكومات في دول الخليج

قال ماثيو ماتشوفسكي الباحث في الشؤون السياسية والعسكرية بجامعة لندن في حديث لقناة "روسيا اليوم"، إننا لازلنا غير متأكدين من صحة المعلومات بشأن نقل السلطة في قطر، مشيرا إلى أن هناك انباء تفيد بأن السلطات القطرية أبلغت الهيآت الدبلوماسية التابعة لها في الدول الأخرى بنقل السلطة في البلاد. وأضاف أن هذه الخطوة غير معتادة في دول الخليج، موضحا أن ذلك من شأنه أن يرسل رسالة إلى السلطات في دول الخليج الأخرى.

My latest interview for RT Arabic channel discussing the speculations surrounding a potential power transition in Qatar later this year. If Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa transfers the emirate to his 33-year-old son this will send a powerful message of generational change to the other monarchies of the region.

You can find the original recording on RT Arabic webpage.

The Voice of Russia: 2013 Presidential elections in Iran

Speculating the outcome of the elections in Iran is a tricky game. Nevertheless, I dared to say a few words about it to the Voice of Russia this morning. Here is a recording of that interview.

For the original recording see the VOR webpage here.

Here are a few snippets of my talk:

Historically, presidential elections in Iran have proven to be highly unpredictable and surprising to people both within Iran and the analysts overseas.

Saeed Jalili ... a continuation of the status quo.

Saeed Jalili runs on a platform of resistance to the West. He is perceived to be highly ideological. And that is also the reason why he is preferred by the Supreme Leader.

In his [Jalili's] view international sanctions imposed on Iran make Iran reorient its economy.

In the West we would certainly want to see someone else win the elections, perhaps Hassan Rowhani who used to be the nuclear negotiator of Iran between 2003 and 2005. And should he win the elections, we expect that there would be some sort of a shift in respect to the tone with which the negotiations are held.

…security issues, the foreign policy, nuclear negotiations – these things are the domain of the Supreme Leader. The president is obviously very visible. ... But we have to remember that the president’s position when it comes to nuclear negotiations is limited.
The two still remain – Ali Akbar Velayati and the Mayor of Tehran Qalibaf. And actually, there is a question now – is any of them actually going to drop down. Both Qalibaf and Velayati are strong contenders.

The atmosphere in Iran can really shift very dramatically very quickly. But so far, I would say that this election is definitely not going to face the kind of situation we saw in 2009. The green revolution is all but dead.