Tag Archives: Iran 2013 presidential elections

Israel should welcome Rouhani’s election victory

3 Oct

My latest article argues that Israel should in fact  welcome Rouhani’s election victory in Iran and why


نتانیاهو و روحانی

18 Jul

در برنامه صفحه ٢ بی بی سی فارسی امروز شرکت کردم و همراه با آقای اکبر گنجی راجع به دیدگاه و اظهارات نتانیاهو به رئیس جمهور جدید ایران و عواقب پیروزی روحانی برای دولت اسرائیل صحبت کردم. امیدوارم که مورد پسند شما قرار بگیره


Iran’s Supreme Investor

13 Jun

One of the ways to look at the role of the supreme leader in the upcoming elections is to see him as the Iranian regime’s answer to Warren Buffett.

My latest piece for Bloomberg explains why and how:


Estimates for the upcoming 2013 Iran Presidential elections

11 Jun

Iranian politics is notoriously difficult to predict. This is especially true with regards to elections, which these days are increasingly managed by the regime, as we found out in 2009.

However, it is important to try and see where things are likely to go in the elections, based on one’s own perceptions, assumptions and reading of the regime.

If you get it right, then great. If you get it wrong, then afterwards at least you have a reference point to go back to to see where and how you went wrong. What assumptions you should have made but didn’t, who in the regime you should have listened to instead, and what clues you missed (among other things).

So here is how I believe (and assume) that things will turn out in the upcoming Iranian elections.

If a clear winner is determined in the first round, it is my estimate that Qalibaf has the biggest chance of winning. Reason? because between the conservatives when it comes to being a technocrat, he is seen as being the most competent. On top of that, and more importantly, he has good relations with Khamanei and parts of IRGC senior leadership.

If there is no clear winner in the first round and elections go into a second round,


Jalili is in the second round runoffs , he would win against any candidate. Reason? because Khamenei and the IRGC have decided that its more important for them to have a yes man. It would be difficult to convince the public that Jalili genuinely won  majority of votes in the 1st round (because he is unknown). So in order to shore up his legitimacy a second round is needed.

Or if:

– Qalibaf is in the run off and its not Jalili who he is running against, then Qalibaf would win. Reason? Khamenei and the IRGC believe that having a runoff is important to boost the legitimacy of the elections by making them look like a tight race. Letting Qalibaf win under such a scenario would enable them to strike two targets with one stone: giving them the already mentioned advantages of Qalibaf, plus more legitimacy for the elections process.

There is very little chance that Rowhani would win the elections (less than 10%). Reason? He views re: relations with West and need for compromise over the nuclear program to save Iran’s economy are out of line with that of the supreme leader and the IRGC.

The election’s dark horse: Mohsen Rezai. In my opinion, between all candidates, the one who could surprise us like Ahmadinejad did in 2005 elections is him. His combative style regarding the economy and its problems could have won him more support than we realize.

Now lets see where I have gotten it wrong, or right. Time will tell.

Panel Video:The Battle for the Presidency – #Iran 2013 presidential elections

26 May

Video of my recent panel participation at the Wilson Center discussing the upcoming elections in Iran, especially the disqualification of Rafsanjani and the challenges which the supreme leader faces. Thanks to Haleh Esfandiari for the invitation and her expert opinion and Barbara Slavin and Ali Vaez for their expertise and informed analysis.


Ahmadinejad cancels his third trip – Iran 2013 presidential elections

21 May

Ahmadinejad has just cancelled his third trip in a week (2 domestic and 1 foreign). Something must be going on. 

In my opinion the most probable cause is lobbying.

Its quite possible that he has realized that his colleague Meshai may not be approved by the Guardian Council to run for the upcoming elections. Ahmadinejad could be staying back to help him by lobbying the Office of the Supreme Leader.

To be honest I can’t think of another reason why he would cancel 3 trips in a week. Its very unlike him.

He will have to be careful though. Ahmadinejad can’t push people around like the old days. And he can’t threaten people by saying that he will reveal secrets about them. Well thats not exactly correct. He could, but he risks house arrest.

Rafsanjani will also have to be careful.

He also risks house arrest if he is suspected of fermenting unrest.

There are already numerous people within the regime who accuse Rafsanjani of fermenting the 2009 demonstrations. One reason is a statement made by his wife in 2009. After casting her vote in the 2009 elections, Efat Marashi (aka Mrs Rafsanjani) stated (on camera) that “the youth should pour on to the streets if there are cheating in the elections”.

There are many who are just waiting to settles scores with Rafsanjani. Ayatollah Khamenei just has to give them the word. If there are disturbances in Iran again and Rafsanjani is accused of being behind them, this time I believe that he might just do that.

Iran Elections 2013 – Is Ayatollah Khamenei in Charge?

13 May

Many of us in the Iran analysis world are still trying to work out why is it that Esfandiyar Rahim Meshai and Rafsanjani registered for the elections when we know that Iran’s most powerful man Ayatollah Khamenei looks unfavorably upon them both.

Professor Gary Sick of Columbia University offers us his opinion about the possible reasons as part of this very interesting article:

“At this point, the most likely interpretation is that each of the candidates was in it for himself, and the Supreme Leader had very little to say about it.”

He goes on to say:

“The notion that the Supreme Leader is far less supreme than his clique would pretend is neither new nor surprising. But this apparent evidence that he is not only lacking in political clout but is in fact essentially irrelevant to the decision-making process is something new — especially if this plethora of candidates risks another train wreck of the magnitude of 2009.”

I take the opposite view to Gary’s.

I believe that Khamenei is still very much in charge and that both Meshai and Rafsanjani ran after receiving clearance from him.

In the case of Rafsanjani, the permission seems to have come close to the deadline for registration of candidates on Sunday. According to Fatemeh Rafsanjani (Ali Akbar Rafsanjani’s daughter):

“My father’s telephone rang at 17:15. He had a relatively short conversation. After that he came out of the room and said: Bism’allah, lets go”.

Fatemeh Rafsanjani refuses to say who the caller was. But its not difficult to guess. Rafsanjani had stated before that he would participate after hearing the supreme leader’s response. With 45 to go before the deadline, he received one phone call after which he decided to go ahead and register. That phone call could only have come from the supreme leader’s representatives, or himself.

Why allow them to run?

I believe that the supreme leader is carrying out some prudent risk management. Having stability before elections is key. The cost of telling Meshai and Rafsanjani not to run and all the ensuing distractions and noise which it would have created would have been unnecessary and avoidable. So why pay?

Furthermore, by allowing Meshai and Rafsanjani to run, that way the elections at least look inclusive of all factions. This would bring:

  1. stability before the elections.
  2. genuine voters to the ballot box
  3.  would unite the divided the conservatives as many are both against Rafsanjani and Meshai. It took one day after Rafsanjani’s registration for Velayati to attack him by saying that Rafsanjani had abandoned the leader during the disturbances of 2009. Soon after Meshai’s registration there were fist fights between his supporters and supporters of other conservative candidates at the registration office.

In the case of Rafsanjani participating, it would have the added advantage that his presence would weaken Meshai. I believe that Khamenei sees the latter as even more destabilizing than Rafsanjani. By bringing Rafsanjani, Meshai’s nationalistic rhetoric and his efforts to present himself as a moderate candidate would take a hit. Rafsanjani’s presence could definitely erode some of Meshai’s support among Iran’s urban population.

When it comes to his impact on Iranian politics and the elections process, it is my firm belief that Ayatollah Khamenei is firmly in charge, with the help of the IRGC.

Which is why for now I strongly believe that Saeed Jalili is the man to watch.

The rest make up parts of the opening act.