1st-round win for centrist Rohani – Iran’s next prime minister


Iran was on the brink of an extraordinary political transformation on Saturday night after the moderate cleric Hassan Rouhani sensationally secured enough votes to succeed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Rouhani’s victory delighted reformers who have been desperate for a return to the forefront of politics after eight acrimonious years under Ahmadinejad.

It will also lift the spirit of a nation suffering from its worst financial crisis for at least two decades as a result of the sanctions imposed by western powers in the dispute over its nuclear programme.

Rouhani, who favours a policy of political openness, as well as re-establishing relations with the west, is likely to soothe international tension. He has been described by western officials as an “experienced diplomat and politician” and “fair to deal with”.

Iran’s interior minister, Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar, announced on state television on Saturday night that 72% of 50 million eligible Iranians had voted, and Rohani had won just over the 50% of the vote required to avoid a runoff.

Rouhani, a PhD graduate from Glasgow Caledonian University and a former nuclear negotiator, has pledged to find a way out of the current stalemate over Iran’s nuclear programme, which is the cause of the sanctions crushing the economy.

Minutes after he was announced as the winner, thousands of jubilant campaigners and people across Iran poured into streets to celebrate. “Ahmadi Bye Bye”, chanted a large group in central Tehran, according to witnesses, in a reference to Ahmadinejad. Car horns were honking in larger streets in Tehran and Rouhani supporters chanted.

The Iranian currency, the rial, recovered in value against the dollar by at least 6% on Saturday. Later on Saturday night, Rouhani issued a statement on television, saying “a new season of solidarity” had begun following a result that brought “rationality and moderation” as well as “peace, stability and hope”…

The turnout for Friday’s vote was so high that polling stations stayed open for five hours longer than planned.

Speaking after casting his vote in Tehran, Khamenei had urged a mass turnout to rebut suggestions by American officials that the election enjoyed little legitimacy.

“I recently heard that someone at the US national security council said, ‘We do not accept this election in Iran’,” he said. “We don’t give a damn.”

All of the papier-mâché lovers of democracy from the UK to the US, from Cameron to Obama, have lined up to give advice. The best thing they could do – for a change – is keep their sticky fingers out of the pot of oil and natural gas that belongs to Iran and shut up for a change.

All prior blather about negotiating in good faith with Iran never came to pass. Just election-speak. Fact remains that even under the strictures of the Iranian theocracy, the turnout for the election was greater than anything Uncle Sugar has turned out in decades. A multi-party, multi-choice election unlike anything allowed in the United States.

Obama planned arms shipments to Syria weeks ago

Our new best buddies

The United States made plans to send arms to Syrian rebels several weeks ago, Obama administration sources told The Washington Post.

This week’s announcement shipments of rifles and ammunition would be funneled to the beleaguered rebels was based on new evidence the Syrian regime had gassed civilians; however, the Post said Saturday President Obama had ordered officials to start planning the supply operation in late April.

The internal debate boiled down to State Department diplomats who feared Syria — and the entire Middle East — was descending into chaos, and military officers and Obama political aides who were concerned about the complexity of the resupply mission and the ramifications of the U.S. involvement in another regional conflict.

Officials told the Post the CIA and other agencies had used the time well. Covert bases were established in Jordan and Turkey to handle the weapons transfers, and contacts were made with rebel leaders inside Syria…

The Post said the planned peace talks in Geneva this month were derailed by Assad’s recent successes on the battlefield. Sources said the negotiations would likely not begin before fall.

In the meantime, the United States will be trying to work out a deal with Russia that will somehow lead the way to a negotiated settlement between Assad and the rebels. Sources told the Post the Obama administration preferred a deal that would preserve Syria’s infrastructure and institutions rather than an outright overthrow of the government, which would create more chaos on the ground.

And everyone involved – of course – is prepared to listen to the wisdom in the White House, State Department and Congress after all the success we’ve had in bringing peace to the region over the past 65 years, eh?

Picking the time to announce Obama’s satisfaction with military analysis from spy agencies in England, France and Foggy Bottom was easy enough. The simple need to try to get Americans talking about anything other than the forgotten piece of paper we call the Bill of Rights works just fine inside the Beltway.

More Americans see NSA whistleblower as patriot than traitor

Sedition is one of our healthier traditions

Roughly one in three Americans say the former security contractor who leaked details of top-secret U.S. surveillance activity is a patriot and should not be prosecuted, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll…

Some 23 percent of those surveyed said former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden is a traitor while 31 percent said he is a patriot. Another 46 percent said they did not know.

Snowden…revealed last week that the NSA is monitoring a wide swath of telephone and Internet activity as part of its counterterrorism efforts.

“I’m neither traitor nor hero. I’m an American,” Snowden told the South China Post…

46% probably can’t ever recall reading the Bill of Rights.

In the Reuters/Ipsos poll, 35 percent of those surveyed said Snowden should not face charges while 25 percent said he should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Another 40 percent said they did not know

Snowden’s revelations, first reported by Britain’s Guardian newspaper and the Washington Post, have fueled a national discussion over how the United States should balance its national security efforts with Americans’ right to privacy…

A petition urging President Barack Obama to pardon Snowden for any crimes he may have committed has collected 63,000 signatures on the White House website since it was posted by a reader on Sunday. The White House reviews and responds to any petition that gathers more than 100,000 signatures.

Reuters/Ipsos polling conducted since the leaks were revealed last Thursday have found Americans divided over the merits of the NSA surveillance program.

Some 45 percent of those surveyed say the program is acceptable under some circumstances, while 37 percent say it is completely unacceptable, the polling found. Only 6 percent say they have no objections to the program.

The saddest part of this survey is the proportion of Americans who apparently never concern their passive little lives with questions about privacy, the responsibility and uses of freedom, oversight of government in a republican electoral system.

Oil-rich Kazakhstan joins the Green Revolution

Locally manufactured wind generator in Pavlodar, Kazakhstan

Oil-rich Kazakhstan will spend 1 percent of annual output every year until 2050 to increase power generation from greener sources, a senior official said, cutting its dependence on coal far faster than some of the world’s big polluters.

The Central Asian country, the world’s ninth largest by area but populated by just 17 million people, holds about 3 percent of the global recoverable oil reserves. However, its fast, oil-propelled growth hinges on high oil prices.

President Nursultan Nazarbayev, a former steelworker who has ruled for more than two decades, has signed off on a state program on developing sources of renewable energy.

“According to our estimates, total investments – state and private – needed to implement this program will amount annually to an average of $3.2 billion in the period until 2050, or roughly 1 percent of GDP,” Environmental Protection Minister Nurlan Kapparov told a news briefing…

This is not such a high price for the clean air, for the health of our children and the preservation of ecological systems, as well as for our economy’s resilience to external shocks which assume more threatening proportions each year.”

Coal-fired power stations, which heavily pollute the atmosphere, currently account for around 80 percent of Kazakhstan’s electricity generation.

Kapparov said, provided domestic natural gas prices were high, Kazakhstan’s “energy basket” by 2030 would be made up of 11 percent generated by wind and the sun, 8 percent by nuclear power, 10 percent by hydro power, 21 percent by gas and 49 percent by coal…

The “green revolution” can add annually up to 3 percent of GDP to Kazakhstan’s current economic growth in the period until 2050, Kapparov said, and create up to 600,000 new jobs.

Looking forward is rarely part of the skill set of politicians. That seems to be a global character trait – with a few exceptions.

It’s always good news for the rest of the planet, as well, when a small, unique portion of the world’s economic machinery decides to include sensible environmental goals into their planning.

In the United States, we’d be improving the odds if we even considered planning.