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Entries in Hillary Clinton (9)


Israel-Palestine Opinion: Hamas, Northern Ireland, and US Diplomacy (Abunimah)

Abu Abunimah writes in The New York Times:

George J. Mitchell, the United States Middle East envoy, tried to counter low expectations for renewed Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations by harking back to his experience as a mediator in Northern Ireland.

At an Aug. 20 news conference with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, announcing the talks that will begin this week, Mr. Mitchell reminded journalists that during difficult negotiations in Northern Ireland, “We had about 700 days of failure and one day of success” — the day in 1998 that the Belfast Agreement instituting power-sharing between pro-British unionists and Irish nationalists was signed.

Israel-Palestine: The Hamas Factor (Yenidunya)

Mr. Mitchell’s comparison is misleading at best. Success in the Irish talks was the result not just of determination and time, but also a very different United States approach to diplomacy.

The conflict in Northern Ireland had been intractable for decades. Unionists backed by the British government saw any political compromise with Irish nationalists as a danger, one that would lead to a united Ireland in which a Catholic majority would dominate minority Protestant unionists. The British government also refused to deal with the Irish nationalist party Sinn Fein, despite its significant electoral mandate, because of its close ties to the Irish Republican Army, which had carried out violent acts in the United Kingdom.

A parallel can be seen with the American refusal to speak to the Palestinian party Hamas, which decisively won elections in the West Bank and Gaza in 2006. Asked what role Hamas would have in the renewed talks, Mr. Mitchell answered with one word: “None.” No serious analyst believes that peace can be made between Palestinians and Israelis without Hamas on board, any more than could have been the case in Northern Ireland without Sinn Fein and the I.R.A.

The United States insists that Hamas meet strict preconditions before it can take part in negotiations: recognize Israel, renounce violence and abide by agreements previously signed between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, of which Hamas is not a member. These demands are unworkable. Why should Hamas or any Palestinian accept Israel’s political demands, like recognition, when Israel refuses to recognize basic Palestinian demands like the right of return for refugees?...

Read full article....

Israel-Palestine-Gaza Latest: Not So Fast With Those Talks?; Lebanese Aid Ship Delayed

Cracks are appearing this morning in the narrative of warm acceptance, at least on the Palestinian side, of the US formal invitation for direct Israel-Palestine talks on 2 September.

Al-Sharq Al-Awsat reports that the head of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, was "very angry" when he heard US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton say that the talks would have no preconditions. Washington reportedly had to call Abbas three times in less than an hour to calm him down and ensure his Yes to the talks.

Israel-Palestine Analysis: Why Did Ramallah Agree to Direct Talks (Yenidunya)

Sherine Tadros of Al Jazeera English adds that half of the members of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization did not attend the PLO's discussion over direct talks, a sign of a possible split in the movement.

On the Gaza front, the Lebanese aid ship Mariam delayed its departure on Saturday after Cyprus denied permission to sail through its waters or to use its ports. Organizers hope to reach a deal with Turkey and/or Greece by Monday.

Israel-Palestine Analysis: Why Did Ramallah Agree to Direct Talks? (Yenidunya)

On Friday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas will each meet with President Barack Obama on 1 September, with formal direct negotiations starting the following day. The Quartet (United Nations, United States, European Union and Russia) echoed Washington's invitation and said a deal could be reached within a year.

Netanyahu's office issued a statement, highlighting the significance of Israel's security institutions, "We are coming to the talks with a genuine desire to reach a peace agreement between the two peoples that will protect Israel's national security interests, foremost of which is security." Defense Minister Ehud Barak said both parties will be required to make "courageous decisions to reach an agreement."

LATEST Israel-Palestine-Gaza Latest: Not So Fast With Those Talks?; Lebanese Aid Ship Delayed
UPDATED Israel-Palestine: US Invites Both Sides to Direct Talks on 2 September

Netanyahu has got what he wanted with direct talks without preconditions, so his welcome is understandable. On the other hand, Ramallah had been showing resistance. But why the change in position? And why now?

As a non-state organisation, the Palestine Authority's capabilities and room for manoeuvre are relatively limited. It is neither sovereign nor territorially defined and its decision-making process is more fluid, given the lack of legitimate authority both in the eyes of Palestinians and Israelis. So Ramallah's resistance, in the face of Washington's sustained efforts, was curbed.

Ramallah also faced an imminent deadline, with the Israeli moratorium on settlement expansion in West Bank ending on 26 September. Any hope of an extension rested on an apparent breakthrough, otherwise the intense conservative discourse in Israel--- "Palestinians not missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity" --- would prevail. So the Palestine Authority now seeks to consolidate the demand for a moratorium, as well as an extension of the freeze to East Jerusalem, as part of the negotations. a rule of negotiations, a sine qua non necessity legitimized  in the eyes of international community.

In the end, despite the months required for the effort, Washington was able to use this leverage to get Mahmoud Abbas and his team to the table, given the limited assurances that the non-state could hope to extract. We have no idea whether President Obama threatened sanctions against the PA and/or showed a carrot, such as a pledge that he would bring forth his own map, based on pre-1967 borders, if Netanyahu did not produce one before the winter. However, what we know is that Washington successfully made Ramallah sit down. (On Saturday, the London-based al-Hayat newspaper claimed that the Obama Administration gave assurance to Abbas.)

The decision to go to Washington is strategically the least damaging option for Ramallah. Following the conditional approval of the Arab League for the talks and the international pressure, Ramallah will not be tarred --- at least in the short term --- as the party who always misses opportunities. The Palestinian Authority will try to play the card of getting assurances over Israeli settlements for the continuation of direct talks after 26 September. Less than 24 hours of the approval, the chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said:
It can be done in less than a year. The most important thing now is to see to it that the Israeli government refrains from settlement activities, incursions, fait accompli policies.

Given no clear timeframe, specific terms of reference, and a monitoring mechanism, Ramallah is already insisting on taking the Quartet inside the negotiation room.  The PA will try to further the Quartet's March statement, saying that talks should lead to a settlement, negotiated between the parties within 24 months, with an end to the occupation that began in 1967 and an independent, democratic, and viable Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace and security with Israel and its other neighbours. The statement also called for a freeze to settlements in the West Bank and an end to the annexation of East Jerusalem.

On Friday, the Quartet expressed support for the pursuit of a just, lasting and comprehensive regional peace as envisaged in the Madrid terms of reference, Security Council resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative. So far, Israelis have not responded to this statement and it is not known if and when the Obama Administration will include the Quartet in direct talks.

At the end of the day, however, given the limits of Ramallah's bargaining power, the catalyst for any advance in the talks will be the decisiveness of the Netanyahu Administration: how serious is it about reaching a deal regardless of public pressure over "non-negotiable security needs"?

UPDATED Israel-Palestine: US Invites Both Sides to Direct Talks on 2 September

UPDATE 1600 GMT: Sherine Tadros of Al Jazeera English reports that the Palestinian Authority has accepted the invitation.

After 24 hours priming the press, the Obama Administration --- through Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and special envoy George Mitchell --- has formally invited the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority to Washington on 2 September on direct talks.

Clinton, addressing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas, stated, "There have been difficulties in the past, there will be difficulties ahead....I ask the parties to persevere, to keep moving forward even through difficult times and to continue working to achieve a just and lasting peace in the region."

Gaza Latest (20 August): Aid Ship Mariam to Sail on Sunday?, UN Report on Gaza Restrictions, & Hamas v. Fatah
Gaza: UN Releases Report on War “No Judgement”
Turkey’s Israel “Problem”: Analysing the Supposed Threat from Washington (Yenidunya)

Netanyahu has already welcomed the invitation.

Clinton said Obama will have bilateral meetings with Netanyahu, Abbas, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and Jordan's King Abdullah on 1 September 1 before a dinner with all  of them. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the representative of the Middle East Quartet (US, UN, European Union, Russia), will also be present at the launch.

The US Government has not mentioned any preconditions on the talks, such as a continued moratorium on expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and a halt to construction in East Jerusalem. Hamas and the political leadership in Gaza have not been invited to the discussions.

The Latest from Iran (17 August): The Green Movement, Ahmadinejad, and a "Confession"

2040 GMT: Parliament v. President. Another possible front in the escalating battle between the Majlis and the Government: Hamidreza Katouzian, the head of the Majlis Energy Commission has said that, after the Government failed to offer a charter for the National Iranian Oil Company, Parliament will vote on its own charter next week.

2030 GMT: The Cleric's Challenge. Green Voice of Freedom summarises the Ramadan speech of Ayatollah Dastgheib: "The Supreme Leader is part of the Constitution, not above it."

1845 GMT: The Battle Within. Two more articles picking up on the growing challenge to President Ahmadinejad: Abbas Djavadi for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Mahan Abedin for Asia Times Online.

1440 GMT: We have posted a separate feature, following up our earlier updates, on what appears to be a Fars News effort (possibly instigated by the Revolutionary Guard) to discredit leading reformist Mostafa Tajzadeh, detained in Evin Prison, through a supposed "confession" that Mir Hossein Mousavi lost the 2009 election.

NEW Iran Special: Have Fars (& Revolutionary Guard) Faked a Reformist “Confession” on Election?
NEW Iran Video: “His Excellency” Ahmadinejad Interviewed by George Galloway (15 August)
NEW Iran Analysis: What Has Green Movement Achieved? (Sahimi)
Iran Document: Mohammad Khatami on Religion, the Islamic Revolution, and the Republic (15 August)
Iran’s Battle Within: Ahmadinejad Appeals to Supreme Leader (Rafiee)

1335 GMT: Karroubi Watch. Mehdi Karroubi, meeting a group of young reformists, has declared, that the opposition "movement is not limited to one person, medi,a or group". Criticising the deceitful and fraudulent remarks and actions of the government and the repression of the people, he advised his listeners to see beyond partisan lines and always stay loyal to their fundamental beliefs and values.

Karroubi concluded that victory would inevitably be achieved with patience and perseverance.

1105 GMT: Reports indicate that an Iranian F4 fighter jet has crashed in the south of the country near the nuclear power plant being established at Bushehr.

1055 GMT: The University Crisis. Fars News is claiming that Abdollah Jasbi, the head of Islamic Azad University, will soon be stepping down.

If true, the development would be a setback for former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, who is trying to maintain influence over Iran's largest university system, with 1.3 million students, as President Ahmadinejad tries to take control of it.

1020 GMT: The Tajzadeh Election "Confession". An EA source says that the claimed video on Fars News of a detained reformist "confessing", "We lost the elections", is not from Evin Prison and could be in connection to a previous Presidential election. The source also says the audio may have been manipulated, thus the need for subtitles to give the "correct" interpretation.

1005 GMT: Fars News Special "Mostafa Tajzadeh: "We lost the elections". Fars News is pushing a video that it claims is the secretly-filmed confession of senior reformist and former Deputy Minister of Interior Mostafa Tajzadeh, speaking to fellow detainees Abdullah Ramezanzadeh and Mohsen Safai-Farahani.

Tajzadeh allegedly says, "I have experience in handling elections, so I know what happened. It is possible than one or two million votes have been displaced,we would have gotten 14-15 million votes. Not 25. We have lost the elections."

We cannot guarantee authenticity of the video. We are carrying out checks and also monitoring any reaction.

0950 GMT: War Chatter. An EA correspondent notes a discussion on Voice of America of the provocative "analysis" by Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic --- which we considered last week on EA --- projecting a likely Israeli airstrike on Iranian facilities.

0940 GMT: How to Handle the US Government and the Stoning Issue. Keyhan responds to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's recent statement criticising the death sentences of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, condemned for adultery, and three other prisoners:
Hillary Clinton, the wife of former US President Bill Clinton, still has to use her husband's name despite becoming Secretary of State. Taking advantage of the exploitative and perverse principle of freedom of choice which Hillary Clinton speaks about, Bill Clinton betrayed her and had a lengthy illicit relationship with his secretary Monica Lewinski which even in the promiscuous US society became a major scandal. Furthermore, Condoleezza Rice was notorious in the media for being promiscuous in her relationships.

0920 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch. An EA correspondent reports that the memoirs of former Hashemi Rafsanjani have been withdrawn from bookstands in Iran only a few weeks after they went on sale. (Could that be because of possible comparisons between the Iranian Government of the 1980s and the Iranian Government of today?)

In his introduction, Rafsanjani writes that his "hard-working staff" have copied all his diaries to CD ROM and stored them in a safe location. That's a message for Iran's security forces: if you raid the former President's offices, you won't get the original of his memoirs.

0855 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran claims that the officials of Ward 350 of Evin Prison have cancelled the mosque privileges of prisoners during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

0845 GMT: The Hunger Strike. Advar News reports that three of the 17 political prisoners who have recently ended their hunger strike --- Abdollah Momeni, Bahman Ahmadi Amoui, and Keyvan Samimi --- are still in solitary confinement.

0825 GMT: Execution (Ashtiani) Watch. Following President Ahmadinejad's assurance that cases of death sentences by stoning were "insignificant" (see 0745 GMT), the Iranian Foreign Ministry has told other countries to stay out of the discussion over Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, the woman whose scheduled execution has received international attention: "Independent nations do not allow other countries to interfere in their judicial affairs....Western nations must not pressurise and hype it (the case) up....Judicial cases have precise procedures, especially when it concerns murder."

0745 GMT: We have just posted the video of the interview of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, addressed as "His Excellency", by former British MP and current Press TV host George Galloway. The two men share their agreement on Iran's nuclear programme, the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Palestine/Gaza before Galloway offers this hard-hitting challenge on "internal Iranian questions":
GALLOWAY: I have police protection in London from the Iranian opposition because of my support for your election campaign. (Galloway is referring to an incident this winter when he was heckled at a post-election meeting in the Houses of Parliament.) I mention this so you know where I'm coming from....

The events after the election were a kind of mini-political earthquake, a section of the population rejecting the results and a section of them openly attacking the Islamic system itself. Can I ask you, "What does the Green Movement mean to you?"

AHMADINEJAD: ....There are people in the Islamic Republic of Iran who continue to criticise and attack the President, and they are sure that nobody is going to harass them. They have peace of mind and they are comfortable. We really have free and democratic elections in this country, and people are the main element of elections, and people are also the executors of elections....

The other point is the conspiracy and plans of the United States and its allies. Before the elections, they had announced they would do everything possible to prevent the Government of Ahmadinejad to be re-elected....

At the end of the day, we see 14 million people have not voted for me. So it will be quite natural if you see number of demonstrators reach 14 million, but the number of the protestors was very insignificant. The people of Iran are very much united....

[The President then speaks of the opposition "within the system", describing Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi, and Mohammad Khatami but not naming them.]

GALLOWAY: Are they still inside the system?

AHMADINEJAD: Almost in the system. Of course, the people don't want them any longer. People have not voted for them. They have been successively defeated [during the Government's] two terms....

The post-election events was on the basis of a project made in the country and it was implemented inside the country among a limited number of people. The Islamic Republic of Iran did not intend to take a harsh attitude toward them....We have managed the situation with minimum cost....

GALLOWAY: Every so often an issue comes along which is seized upon by the enemies of Iran and magnified and it becomes a heavy problem. One such is the punishment scheduled originally against a woman convicted of adultery [Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani], the so-called stoning case.

I see that President Lula from Brazil has asked Iran if he can take this woman into exile there to solve this problem. Can Iran agree to this?

AHMADINEJAD: The number of such people [sentenced to death by stoning] is very, very insignficant. I talked to a judge at the end of the day, and judges are independent. But I talked to the head of the judiciary and the judiciary does not also agree with such a thing....I think there is no need to create some trouble for President Lula to take her to Brazil. We are keen to export our technology to Brazil....I think the problem is so limited.

0655 GMT: We begin this morning with Muhammad Sahimi's analysis, "What Has the Green Movement Achieved?"


Political Prisoner Watch

Majid Pashai, a student activist, has been given a two-year prison sentence.

War Talk

Neither the Green Movement nor political prisoners is getting a look in, however, with most US-based analysts. The Atlantic magazine --- motives to be considered in 25 words or less --- has re-made itself as Command Central for discussion of an Israeli strike on Tehran.

How far can one run with such chatter? Well, former Bush Administration official John Bolton used the news that Russia will supply uranium fuel rods to Iran's first nuclear power plant at Bushehr to claim that Israel has until 21 August to attack Iran's nuclear facilities: "Once the rods are in the reactor an attack on the reactor risks spreading radiation in the air, and perhaps into the water of the Persian Gulf."

Bolton made the claim even though Bushehr has no connnection to uranium enrichment, let alone any Iranian military nuclear programme.