Over the past year, political speculation has centered primarily on Esfandiar Mashaie (left), Ahmadinejad’s principal aide, ideas-man and political adviser. He is widely considered to have formidable political skills; he is often credited with Rasputin-like influence over the president. The two men are also in-laws through the marriage of their children.
Conservatives have countered with a campaign to discredit the Ahmadinejad team as the “deviant current,” trying to push the president and his lieutenants outside the political and religious mainstream. Mashaie is a particular target of the conservatives’ ire.
Photo Credit: Russia's Presidential Press and Information Office (www.kremlin.ru)
On foreign policy, there is no resolution in sight to the stand-off between Tehran and the P5+1—the five members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany—over Iran’s nuclear program. The ruling elite is riven by factions, and no leader seems to have a clear idea about how to extract Iran from its current predicaments. And the urban middle class, burned by what many consider rigged presidential elections in 2009, is increasingly uninterested in voting.
· Ali Larijani , Speaker of Parliament (left) and former secretary of the National Security Council (NSC),
Jafari has an estimated 150,000 troops under his control. The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps has its own powerful army (between 100,000 and 125,000), navy (up to 20,000) and air force (about 20,000). It also oversees several thousand members in the elite Qods Force, which trains and supports foreign insurgent organizations.
Appointed commander in 2007, Jafari has implemented ideas developed in previous positions, including asymmetric tactics in case of conflict with the United States or Israel. “Given the enemy's numerical or technological superiority, the IRGC would use asymmetrical warfare capabilities, such as those used by Hezbollah in its 2006 war with Israel in Lebanon. Iranian strategy would also reflect the strengths and weaknesses of the U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq,” he said three days after his appointment.
What are the key issues on which Afghanistan and Iran agree and disagree?
It would prefer not to have to be concerned about Afghanistan. To this end, it is focusing on carving its sphere of influence, accelerating a Western withdrawal, and assuring that its interests are protected.
Photo Credit: Pahari Sahib (Image:BlankMap-World-v5.png) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/
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Interview with Joshua Stacher
The Islamists Are Coming
The Islamists Are Coming, edited by Robin Wright, surveys the rise of Islamist groups in the wake of the Arab Spring. Often lumped together, the more than 50 Islamist parties with millions of followers now constitute a whole new spectrum—separate from either militants or secular parties. They will shape the new order in the world’s most volatile region more than any other political bloc. Yet they have diverse goals and different constituencies. Sometimes they are even rivals.
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