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Hardliners expected to reinforce their control in upcoming Iranian elections

Posted by Albert Gersh - February 26, 2016


As Iranians go to the polls, hardliners are expected to consolidate their control, having ensured their victory through the selection of candidates for both the parliament and the Assembly of Experts, the clerical body responsible for selecting the next Supreme Leader. Iran’s Guardian Council, which vets candidates, has disqualified 75% of the candidates seeking to run for a seat on the Assembly of Experts. The Guardian Council also excluded almost two-thirds of all the candidates who applied to run in Iran’s parliamentary election. The administration hoped that the nuclear deal’s economic benefits would strengthen more moderate elements like President Hassan Rouhani who advocated in favor of the agreement. But following the deal, hardliners moved to consolidate their power, disqualifying moderates ahead of the elections, arresting dual nationals, and cracking down on poets, filmmakers, and journalists. According to Bloomberg View columnist Eli Lake, the dominance of these hardliners call into question gambling on a transformation of Iranian leadership in 10-15 years when the nuclear deal’s restrictions expire, as the nature of the regime will likely remain the same, only emboldened with a legitimized, industrial-sized nuclear infrastructure and a revamped military.

Iran analysts argue that the results of the elections are not as significant as widely thought. This is because, Sohrab Amari writes, “the regime’s popular branches are subservient to its unelected institutions,” in particular the Supreme Leader, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and the Guardian Council. Furthermore, Ray Takeyh, a former Iran advisor for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, explains that the Assembly of Experts simply “rubber stamps” a Supreme Leader already chosen by more powerful Iranian officials.

According to both Amari and Takeyh, there is in any case little difference between the moderates and hardliners as the moderates offer small improvements in personal freedoms but remain committed to an anti-Western foreign policy. The leaders of the 2009 Green Revolution, reformists who promoted more significant change, remain under house arrest. Rouhani, often portrayed as a moderate and an outsider, served in the Supreme National Security Council, the top decision-making body in Iran. Human rights abuses have worsened under his authority. Takeyh asserts, “Since the purges of 2009, Iranian politics have been reduced to a coalition of hardliners and centrists who agree far more than they disagree.”


In a speech broadcast to over 2,000 attendees at Microsoft Israel’s annual Think Next event, Microsoft founder Bill Gates said that Israeli contributions to technology fields such as analytics and security are “improving the world,” The Times of Israel reported on Thursday. Gates, who addressed the Tel Aviv audience on a video call, also congratulated Microsoft’s Israeli research and development center on its 25th anniversary, wishing it “a happy birthday.”The center initially opened in 1991 when a number of Microsoft’s Israeli engineers wished to return home. “We decided to open the center – it was our first one outside the US – and I think the technology they have produced over the years more than justifies our decision,” he said.

Gates also acknowledged long-standing rumors that major components of Microsoft’s Windows operating system were developed in Israel, which the company confirmed, though he did not identify which ones. “I have been very impressed with what they have done in the past 25 years, and I can’t wait to see what they come up with in the next 25,” he added.

Microsoft’s annual Think Next event originated in Israel and has since expanded to other Microsoft locations, including in India, China, and the United States. “This event is held in the framework of Microsoft’s efforts to promote high-tech in Israel, and especially in the start-up sector, where Microsoft holds various promotion and cooperation activities with some 1,000 startups,” the Times wrote.

Zack Weisfeld, who heads the start-up accelerator Microsoft Ventures, said the company is particularly proud of the program’s development since its 2012 launch in Israel. “Worldwide we have had 454 graduates, who have raised $1.78 billion,” said Weisfeld of Ventures, which has opened six other accelerators since its Tel Aviv launch. “We’ve had 29 exits and 3 IPOs, and on average companies that graduated from the program received $4.9 million in funding in the first year after they graduate from the accelerator. That’s enough to make us the number one corporate accelerator in the world.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday met with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, seen in the video embedded below, to discuss matters including cyber-security. “Israel is a center of great technological innovation,” said Netanyahu. “Microsoft is a great technological company. It’s a marriage made in heaven, but recognized here on earth.” Nadella responded, “It’s a real pleasure to be in Israel, and as you said, the 25 years have been a fantastic 25 years, and we look forward to 25 more.”(via TheTower.org)

A new Arab-Israeli innovation hub has joined the local high-tech landscape and leading experts in the field have high hopes for the project’s success. The TRI/O Tech advanced high-tech entrepreneurial hub in the hilltop Israeli Arab city of Kafr Kassem, about 20 kilometers east ofTel Aviv, includes the first Arab-Israeli school of entrepreneurship and a startup accelerator. TRI/O Tech is a joint venture of Tsofen, an Arab-Israeli integration non-profit,andMIT Enterprise Forum of Israel, the Israeli chapter of the global non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the growth and success of high-tech entrepreneurial ventures. The initiative – expected to cost $23 million over three years – is primarily supported by the US-Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) of the US State Department. “The whole operation in this hub is focused on integrating Israeli Arabs into Israeli high-tech, making the entrepreneurial world more accessible to the Arab community, creating jobs for Arabs in their towns so they do not need to travel to Tel Aviv or Haifa for work, and at the same time fostering and encouraging entrepreneurship through the school and accelerator,” Hans Shakur, consultant for Tsofen and project manager, tells ISRAEL21c. (via Israel21c)

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