#Iran: the next startup nation

10 Nov

Startup fever is taking over Iran. Young entrepreneurs are coming up with new ideas. And more and more countries are becoming interested in Iran’s nascent tech sector.

So much so that Microsoft in Istanbul hast started hosting Iranian entrepreneurs to hear their pitch for new tech products.

NPR’s Deborah Amos recently attended one of these sessions in Istanbul. She spoke to young Iranian entrepreneurs about their dreams, aspirations and the challenges which they face both at home and abroad, a major one being the sanctions. Until they are removed, it will be very difficult for such entrepreneurs to get investment from abroad.

You can find the podcast here

Sneaking admiration of #Israel in #Iran political circles?

9 Nov
Mohammad_Bagher_Ghalibaf

Mayor of Tehran Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf

Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf (pictured right) is an establishment man.

Among other things he is the former head of the Revolutionary Guards air force. He was also in charge of the state police as well as the Revolutionary Guard’s massive business conglomerate called “Khatam Al Anbiya”.

Qalibaf is considered as a “moderate conservative”. He came second in the 2013 presidential elections in Iran.

And judging by his latest interview with the Economist, it seems that he has a sneaking admiration of Israel.

I highly recommend the podcast below. The takeaway from the Economist’s interview with Mayor Qalibaf and the situation in Iran is quite interesting.

You can find the podcast here

#Obama secret letter to Ayatollah Khamenei: the #Iran and #Israel angle

6 Nov khamenei obama

It was revealed today by the Wall Street Journal that U.S president Barack Obama sent a secret letter to Iran supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei.khamenei obama

According to the report:

President Barack Obama secretly wrote Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in the middle of last month and described a shared interest in fighting Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, according to people briefed on the correspondence.

The letter appeared aimed both at buttressing the Islamic State campaign and nudging Iran’s religious leader closer to a nuclear deal.

A couple of questions and my thoughts as to what the answers could be:

1. Why is the Obama administration briefing the press about this “secret” letter. If its supposed to be a secret then why reveal it to the press?

I think one of the major goals could be to increase the pressure on the Iranians. By publicizing Obama’s latest direct outreach to Iran’s supreme leader, it will now be even more difficult for Ayatollah Khamenei to say no to a nuclear deal on Nov 24. If he does say no, it will now be far more difficult for Iran to play the part of the victim.

2. Did Obama write such a letter and then publicize it out of spite against Netanyahu?

Some are already asking this question, as relations between them are bad and getting worst.

In my opinion, Iran is one issue which Obama would not use in his fights against Netanyahu. The Palestinian issue? definitely, because in Israel people are divided and sniping at Netanyahu already. Some would even welcome Obama challenging Netanyahu on Palestinian related issues such as the settlements.

But on Iran? no. This is one area which could backfire badly if Obama uses it to settle scores with Netanyahu. There is far far more unity in Israel when it comes to Iran than on the Palestinian issue. Obama knows that.

In fact its quite possible that Israel was told about this letter. If the Wall Street has been briefed about it, most probably so was Israel,  before the Wall Street Journal.

The two people who are likely to gain from such a letter are Rouhani and Obama. I believe they both want a deal, and this letter increases pressure on the main obstacles to an agreement inside Iran, namely the hardline Iranian political elite who have been close to Ayatollah Khamenei for many years.

On the recent clashes in Jerusalem

5 Nov intifadah-_110929083023-578

Tensions in Jerusalem are rising every day. More and more people are asking whether we are on the cusp of another Intifada.

There have been many different podcasts produced and articles written about recent clashes there.

This one by Toby Greene and Richard Pater of The Britain – Israel Communications and Research Center (BICOM) is one of the most comprehensive which I have heard so far.

In the podcast, they discuss actions by both sides which have contributed to the recent clashes.

I highly recommend it.

You can find the podcast here

Thank you ADL, Union for Reform Judaism Movement and JSTREET

4 Nov

Last week I wrote a blog post about plans by the Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon to separate Israeli and Palestinian persons on Israeli buses in the West Bank. Basically, any person who is Palestinian would not be allowed to travel on the same bus as an Israeli.

It warms my heart to see that those of us in Israel who think this policy would be wrong in every imaginable way are supported our friends and brethren in the U.S.

According to the Times of Israel, soon after the announcement, the Young Israeli Labor organization sent a letter to a number of US pro-Israel groups. The letter, among other things stated:

“This unfortunate decision is a disastrous one in any respect,” said the letter. “Apart from being a severely miserable decision in every moral aspect, it also adds a very powerful weapon to the arsenal of those seeking to undermine Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.”

So far ADL, Union for Reform Judaism Movement and JSTREET have responded positively to the letter. The ADL has stated that it will be addressing this issue privately with the government of Israel. The other movements will also be pursuing this matter.

Meanwhile Israel’s Attorney General has requested an explanation from Israel’s Defense Minister. He has to answer by November 9th.

This decision will be challenged to the hilt. The Defense Minister will have to put up a hell of a fight, for an unjust cause. Best to give up now.

In Netanyahu vs Obama: the winner is likely to be #Palestine

29 Oct A youth holds-up a big Palestinian flag during a protest against the controversial separation wall in Ramallah

Make no mistake, after the US midterm elections, Netanyahu is going to take the gloves off. He is going to try to make life hell for Obama in any way he can in order to settle scores with him.

One area where Netanyahu is likely to try to make life difficult for Obama is Iran. If there is a deal between Iran and the P5+1, Netanyahu is likely to try to encourage the Congress to vote against the lifting of the sanctions. Or to slow down the implementation of America’s commitment, in any way possible, so that Obama looks like a lame duck.

And this is where the Palestinians enter the picture and are likely to be the biggest winner.

First scenario: Obama tries to settle scores with Netanyahu by not vetoing a very harsh resolution against Israeli settlements at the UNSC. Likely winner = Palestine as such a resolution is going to make it easier to isolate Israel and impose sanctions against the settlements in the international community.

Second scenario: AIPAC finds itself being pushed by both sides (Obama and Netanyahu), so it decides not to get involved or to reduce its involvement in such a scenario. Likely winner = Palestine. As far as the Palestinians are concerned, the less AIPAC is involved in anything to do with Israel, the better.

Whatever you think of AIPAC, it is an American organization. Despite its excellent relations with Israeli governments, its unlikely that it would want to be seen as standing against the President of the US in a long drawn out battle with the Prime Minister of Israel.  Such fights are the stuff of nightmares for AIPAC as its main goal is to strengthen relations between Israel and US governments. Publicly taking sides in a fight between the leaders of the two countries would be the last thing it wants.

Third scenario (and the less likely one): Obama does not VETO UNSC resolution which recognizes Palestine. Winner = Palestine.

Whatever happens, one of the aforementioned scenarios is likely to be realized and no matter which one is realized, Palestine is likely to be the winner.

Was today your birthday? then lucky you as you share it with..

28 Oct ahmadinejad

none other than Mahmoud Ahmadinejad himself.

Oh yes, 28th of October is the day when the village of Aradan in Iran’s Semnan province first heard the patter of tiny feet in 1956.  ahmadinejad

And since then, those very same feet have destroyed many things inside Iran.

But, you can’t say Ahmadinejad is not a man of miracles. How can you not believe in miracles when according to the Iranian regime in 2009 he won the presidential elections with votes cast for him in the state of Israel itself. Oh yes, those non-existent ballot boxes in Jerusalem were full of Ahmadinejad votes, thus allowing him to win his non-existent “people’s” victory.

But don’t be sad because you share a birthday with the man . There are people worse off than you. Feel bad for me. I spent so much time researching his life for his biography which I coauthored in 2007 that on couple of occasions I dreamed that I was speaking with him. I distinctly remember that in one dream I was asking him why in 2005 he said he father had died in 1993 when in fact he was alive. His father died in 2006 and not 1993. I can tell you one thing about that experience: at least I will never suffer from narcolepsy.

And we are not the only lucky ones. Today, on his 58th birthday the people of Iran received a brand new newspaper called HOMA (Havadaran-e Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) or supporters of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. You can say what you want about the sanctions, from now on with this newspaper no one can complain about the lack of medication for insomnia in Iran.

So to all you birthday boys and birthday gals today, if you can’t beat the Mach-mood (Mahmoud in an Israeli accent) then join him. Put your dancing shoes on and start dancing to this funky video, made in honor of the man who put the MAD in AhMADinjead. Oh yeah…

 

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