Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Iran elects Ultra-Conservative To Head Assembly Of Experts

This news may be significant, particularly with the supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei dying from prostate cancer:

The man who once said, "If someone tells you he has a new interpretation of Islam, sock him in the mouth" is now one of the most powerful men in Iran.
Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, an ultra-conservative hard-liner, has been elected chairman of the powerful clerical body the Assembly of Experts.  The assembly elects  or removes  the supreme leader and guides him in his decisions on whether a law meets sharia requirements.
Yazdi, described in Iran's official Who's Who as rightwing, takes up a position vacant since October 2014, when Ayatollah Mohammad Reza Mahdavi Kani died following a heart attack.

 Officially comprised of 86 religious figures elected by the people, the Assembly of Experts chooses the supreme leader and monitors his actions.

As the Jerusalem Post reports, current supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is suffering from Stage 4 prostate cancer and probably has less than two years to live.  The significance of Yazdi's election is that he is now in an excellent position to grab the top spot when Khamenei dies.  Yazdi has been mentioned prominently as a successor to Khamenei for more than a decade.  But given his age  83  he is likely to be a short-term solution to their leadership problem.

Yazdi served as head of the judiciary branch of government for many years and is a member of the Guardian Council.  He was designated to lead Friday prayers in Tehran  a position that required him to lead the "Death to America" chant after every Friday service.

The new head of the Assembly of Experts is also a "twelver"  a believer in the apocalyptic vision of the return of the 12th Imam, who will bring about a world caliphate under sharia law.

Yazdi is one of the last of the Old Guard Islamic clerics who seized power in 1979.  He studied under Ayatollah Khomeini and was at his side during ther revolution.  The "younger" generation of ayatollahs (in their 50s and 60s) are about to move into positions of leadership in the regime.  They are no less anti-American or anti-Western than their elders.  And they wouldn't dream of easing restrictions set up by sharia law.  In short, anyone hoping for significant change in Iran once the Old Guard passes on is fooling himself.

A magnitude 6.6 earthquake has hit the Colombian capital of Bogota, prompting mass evacuations from the city’s buildings. Strong and prolonged tremors sparked panic and a social media storm.

The Colombian Geological Survey reported that the tremors originated from the Santander Department area and were 158 kilometers deep. The earthquake was an estimated magnitude of 6.6.

According to the US Geological Survey (USGS), the earthquake was centered about nine miles (14 kilometers) north of Aratoca, which is about 175 miles (280 kilometers) north of Bogota. The epicenter was reportedly 91 miles (147 kilometers) deep. The USGS revised the earthquake’s magnitude to 6.2. 

An annual poll sponsored by National Journal and Allstate Insurance finds Americans losing faith in Washington to solve problems, while believing that state and local governments are better equipped to address important issues.

This attitude cuts across gender, education, socioeconomics, and even different regions of the country.  Even a plurality of Democrats favor state and local solutions to problems.

The preference for governance closer to home carries across ages and genders. Sixty-seven percent of men favored state and local institutions over national ones, compared to the breakdown among women of 61 percent for local and state level versus 27 percent for national. Poll participants who identified as Republicans expressed some of the least regard for leadership at the national level. Just 14 percent of Republicans said the national level was marching ahead toward its goals; Republicans, who have long advocated for a smaller footprint for the federal government, overwhelmingly favored the activity of state and local institutions.

The polling did not just show the lack of faith in national institutions and leadership; it also shows that people increasingly feel that the best solutions for the country's problems will come from local communities, state governments, and institutions. Sixty-nine percent of respondents said that state and local institutions—from governments to businesses to community groups and volunteers—offer the best new ideas because they were closer to the problems, more adaptable, and had a greater stake in finding solutions. Just 22 percent of respondents thought the federal government and big business were better equipped to solve the country's challenges.

 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday he saw "a real danger" he might lose next week's closely contested election and asserted that there was a worldwide effort to ensure such an outcome.

In what Israeli media called an unannounced visit to a rally north of Tel Aviv, Netanyahu entreated supporters to make sure he defeats rival Isaac Herzog of the left-of-center Zionist Union party by casting ballots in the March 17 vote.

"It's far from being certain, there's a real danger," the said the right-wing premier, who has been in office since 2009.

In footage of the event obtained by Reuters Television, Netanyahu said Herzog would seek to renew peace talks with Palestinians and negotiate about "dividing Jerusalem, giving back territory". He was alluding to his rival's promises to seek to revive negotiations that collapsed in April.

Israeli Army Radio earlier aired what it said were comments Netanyahu made on Monday to party activists in which he said "it is a very tight race. Nothing is guaranteed because there is a huge, worldwide effort to topple the Likud government".

The radio interpreted his remarks as referring to foreign funding for advocacy groups campaigning for a change in government in Israel.

Acting on direct orders from Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian special forces raided the nine PA-ruled towns of the West Bank in the past 48 hours and detained 500 Hamas suspects...Abbas ordered the operation after discovering that Hamas had been hatching a plot for some weeks to stage an armed insurrection against the Palestinian Authority, starting in one of the Palestinian towns – possibly even the PA capital of Ramallah. They would assassinate him in the process of the coup.

Of late, Abbas has kept his distance from Ramallah and his seat of government and spends most of his time traveling in foreign countries, especially Arab capitals, where he feels safer under the protection of foreign security services than he does at home. 

The wave of detentions from Sunday to Tuesday (March 9-10) is the most extensive the Palestinian Authority has ever conducted against Hamas' West Bank cells. Not only prominent figures and known terror activists were taken into custody but also new figures.

Abbas ordered the operation amid a serious dilemma over his personal security.
Before him were reports presented by Palestinian Intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Majed Faraj revealing the preparations in train for his assassination, an event that would signal mass riots orchestrated by Hamas and Jihad Islami, leading up to the seizure of government from the Palestinian Authority – much as they did in the Gaza Strip.

The wave of detentions from Sunday to Tuesday (March 9-10) is the most extensive the Palestinian Authority has ever conducted against Hamas' West Bank cells. Not only prominent figures and known terror activists were taken into custody but also new figures.

The 3,000 IDF soldiers plus 10,000 reservists called up this week were not posted on the West Bank to practice anti-riot tactics for putting down Palestinians disturbances against Jewish settlements – as reported. They were placed on the ready in case it was necessary to go into Palestinian towns and save them from being overrun by the radical Hamas and Jihad Islami.

The Israeli troops also rehearsed a possible scenario that might ensue from the murder of Mahmoud Abbas.

In view of the highly sensitive security situation on the West Bank, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu accompanied by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, paid a rare visit to the IDF’s Judea-Samaria command headquarters Tuesday, March 10, to inspect these preparations.

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