Features

Bibi's comeback

"Bibi's comeback" Continued...

Issue: "Geo-gizmos," April 25, 2009

But that depends on whether or not this Prime Minister Netanyahu is a mirror image of the old one or a reinvented leader who may appease world opinion with conciliatory talk but stand by his far-right colleagues in the end. "A decade after Netanyahu left the prime ministry, with a successful stint as finance minister and a newly dangerous Iran, I am guardedly hopeful that he will be a more serious and consistent politician," Pipes said.

Israel's thorn

Elections in Iran are unlikely to give Mideast neighbors relief from radicalism

By Jill Nelson

As both Israel and the United States usher in new adminis-trations decidedly different than their predecessors, Iran is preparing for its own elections, and onlookers wonder if new leadership will be voted in. Most likely, it will not.

Hard-liner President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad remains the frontrunner in presidential elections scheduled for June 12, and even if reformers such as Mir Hossein Mousavi gain strides in the coming weeks, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei will still remain the primary power in Iran. None of these factors is good news for world leaders concerned about Iran's growing nuclear capabilities, expanding influence in the region, and belligerent responses to the Obama administration's overtures.

Army General David Petraeus told Congress that Iran "frustrates U.S. goals in the region" and funds Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon. He said he is encouraged, however, by this surprise: Iran's inability to gain substantial influence in Iraq, also majority Shiite, despite the presence of a Shiite government. "They are a bit back on their heels right now," the Hudson Institute's Hillel Fradkin said. "They can play a certain role with money and being next door, but a lot of channels have become less open, and there's a certain amount of wariness among Iraqi Shiites of Iranian influence."

But even as independent Shiite parties beat out Iran's proxy parties during recent parliamentary elections, Iran appears to be rethinking its strategy ahead of Iraq's national elections scheduled for December: Two of Iran's most powerful political leaders-and bitter rivals of Ahmadinejad-met with Iraq's top Shiite religious leader in March, and a 105-person delegation from Iran traveled to Iraq to meet with religious and political leaders that included the president and prime minister.

Top on Israel's list of concerns is Iran's nuclear program-an endeavor Iran claims is for peaceful purposes. Petraeus told Congress on April 1 that "the Israeli Government may ultimately see itself so threatened by the prospect of an Iranian nuclear weapon that it would take preemptive military action to derail or delay it."

During an interview with The Atlantic shortly before his swearing-in, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened just that: He said Obama must act quickly to thwart Iranian efforts to develop nuclear weapons or Israel would be forced to attack Iran's nuclear facilities.

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