If you watched the news this weekend you probably know that President Obama made a carefully-crafted speech at AIPAC to saber-rattle enough to sound plausible to the Zionist lobby while sounding reasonable and sane enough for normal Americans (and Israelis). Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council, explained the differences between Obama and the outright warmongers at Huff Po:
The dispute on the nuclear issue is centered on red lines. Israel, like the Bush administration, considers a nuclear capability in Iran a red line. It argues that the only acceptable guarantee that Iran does not get a nuclear weapon is for Iran to have no enrichment program.
The Obama administration puts the red line not at enrichment-- which is permitted under international law-- but at nuclear weapons. This is a clearer, more enforceable red line that also has the force of international law behind it.
While expressing his sympathy and friendship with Israel, Obama did not yield his red line at AIPAC. With the backing of the U.S. military, he has stood firm behind weaponization rather than weapons capability as the red line.
The Republican presidential contenders-- at least all of them but Ron Paul-- want to claim they'd back an Israeli-preemptive attack on Iran. But, as George Will pointed out on ABC's This Week yesterday the Republican stance is hard for a rational person to take seriously. "They want to bomb Iran," he scoffed, "but they’re afraid of Rush Limbaugh.” Romney really is the most craven major party candidate to ever run for the presidency.
But the real news about Iran this weekend wasn't about U.S. election maneuvering; it was about the actual elections-- in Iran on Friday. They left Ahmadinejad basically a lame duck. Politicians backing Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei won around 75% of the seats in the Majlis (parliament).
The widespread defeat of Ahmadinejad supporters-- including his sister, Parvin Ahmadinejad-- is expected to reduce the president to a lame duck after he sowed divisions by challenging the utmost authority of Khamenei in the governing hierarchy.
...But analysts said the combative Ahmadinejad-- who is constitutionally barred from running for a third presidential term-- would not readily bow to the ballot box rout of his supporters and may fight back.
"Ahmadinejad's camp has not been demolished. We have to wait and see what happens after the new parliament convenes in June," said analyst Hamid Farahvashian.
"The vote showed that there is a deepening rift between the ruling elites. It might emerge in the coming weeks."
Ahmadinejad is likely to be summoned to an unprecedented hearing in the outgoing parliament by Friday to answer questions focusing on his rocky handling of the economy, while Khamenei kept ultimate control over foreign policy.
Critics say Ahmadinejad has inflicted higher inflation on Iranians by slashing food and fuel subsidies to cut spending and purge waste, and replacing them with cash handouts of around $38 a month per person.
Parliament could impeach Ahmadinejad if his explanations are unconvincing, but Khamenei's green light would be needed.
Analysts said Ahmadinejad is likely to survive his term-- but as a lame duck president.
"The establishment is under Western pressure and does not want to look divided," said analyst Babak Sadeghi. "Ahmadinejad will finish his term as a weak executive."
Under mounting Western pressure over its nuclear programme and concerns that Israel might attack, Iran's clerical elite needed a high election turnout to shore up their legitimacy damaged since Ahmadinejad's 2009 re-election, in which fraud allegations triggered eight months of anti-government protests.
Khamenei said a high turnout would be a message of defiance to "the arrogant powers bullying us," a reference to Western states and sanctions against Iran.
State officials said the turnout was over 64 percent, higher than the 57 percent in the 2008 parliamentary vote.
Absent from the vote were the two main opposition leaders. Mirhossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi, who ran for president in 2009, have been under house arrest for more than a year.
Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran's Foreign Minister, speaking for Ayatollah Khamenei, said on Tuesday that "We do not see any glory, pride or power in the nuclear weapons-- quite the opposite. The production, possession, use or threat of use of nuclear weapons are illegitimate, futile, harmful, dangerous and prohibited as a great sin.” Take it up with Santorum, Gingrich, Romney and Republicans who want to use scare tactics-- and a war if they can-- to win November's election here in the U.S. And Khamenei himself gave a foreign policy speech, last week, claiming Iran has a no first strike policy, that it will not fire the first shot in any conflict and essentially repeating the same thing Salehi said:
The Iranian nation has never pursued and will never pursue nuclear weapons. There is no doubt that the decision makers in the countries opposing us know well that Iran is not after nuclear weapons because the Islamic Republic, logically, religiously and theoretically, considers the possession of nuclear weapons a grave sin and believes the proliferation of such weapons is senseless, destructive and dangerous.
The election-- in which all the candidates were pre-approved by the Guardian Council-- was basically between two conservative factions. But the conservative faction that is steadfastly against nuclear weapons beat the conservative faction that fears nuclear weapons are the best way to deter an eventual American attack.