t the outset of his term, the new president of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, will confront a thicket of national and international challenges.
Rouhani’s presidential term starts at a particularly challenging time; the Islamic Republic of Iran is facing an unprecedented level of regional and international isolation. One of the most crucial foreign policy objectives which will take precedence in Rouhani’s agenda is the Syrian conflict, which has now entered its third year.
The election result raises vital questions regarding whether Iran’s foreign policy towards Assad’s sect-based and police regime will be altered or whether Iranian-Syrian alliance will evolve into a new phase. Will the presidency of the centrist Rouhani influence Iran’s diplomatic ties with Damascus and its unconditional support for Assad? Will Tehran change its political, military, intelligence and advisory assistance to Syria’s state apparatuses, army, security forces, and Mukhabart?
Enrique Pena Nieto took the oath of office as Mexico’s new president on Saturday, promising a list of specific reforms that are part old-party populist handouts to the poor and new assaults on the entrenched systems and sacred cows that have hampered the country’s development.
Pena Nieto, marking the return of the institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, promised everything from a new integrated program to prevent crime to ending the patronage and buying of teacher positions that rule the public education system and opening up broadband Internet service now dominated by just a few telecommunication monopolies.
“It’s time to move Mexico and to achieve a national transformation,” Pena Nieto said. “This is the moment for Mexico.”
The return of the PRI after a 12-year hiatus started with violent confrontations in the streets and protest speeches from opposition parties inside the congress, where Pena Nieto took the oath of office. Protesters continued vandalizing downtown businesses, smashing plate glass windows and setting office furniture ablaze outside.
Protesters clashed with tear gas-wielding police, calling the inauguration of Pena Nieto an “imposition” of a party that ruled with a near-iron fist for 71 years using a mix of populist handouts, graft and rigged elections. At least two people were injured, one gravely, police said, and a police officer who was bleeding from the face was taken for medical treatment
Israel has been inundated this past month with visits from high-ranking U.S. officials, all coming armed with intelligence to suggest that there is still time for the West to act against Iran’s nuclear program (and by time, they mean post-November 6 time). Israel is also getting a visit this weekend from Mitt Romney, who is attempting to convince Americans that he will be tougher on Iran than Barack Obama. In my Bloomberg View column this week, I lay out why this might not be the case — why, in fact, Romney would be seriously hamstrung in his dealings with Iran, if he is elected president. Here are just a few of the reasons why he would have a potentially hard time confronting Iran militarily:
Romney would be a new president in 2013, which could plausibly be the year for a preventive attack. He will be inexperienced, and his national security team will be new and potentially inexperienced as well. The learning curve on Iran is steep, and the Iranian regime knows it. The Obama team is deeply knowledgeable, appropriately cynical about Iranian intentions, and has had the time and confidence to make course corrections.
Romney, by all accounts, is uninterested in inheriting the mantle of President George W. Bush, who invaded two Muslim countries and lost popularity and credibility as a result. Romney, despite his rhetoric, is more of a pragmatist than Bush, and far more cautious. An attack on Iran is an incautious act, one that even Bush rejected.
After her first meeting with Egypt’s new president, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton waded cautiously into a divisive domestic debate over the role of that country’s military, offering U.S. support for the armed forces’ “return to a purely national security role.”
Mrs. Clinton said in brief comments following her meeting with Mohammed Morsi that she pledged American support to mend Egypt’s economy, including following through on a $1 billion financial package U.S. President Barack Obama promised to Egypt last summer.
Mrs. Clinton’s meeting with Mr. Morsi marks a watershed moment in the shifting U.S. relationship with one of its strongest allies in the Arab world. Mr. Morsi is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, an 84-year-old group that American foreign policy makers have kept at arms length for decades.
In the 17 months since the fall of U.S.-backed President Hosni Mubarak amid nationwide street protests, the Brotherhood has taken control of Egypt’s presidency and its now dissolved parliament, forcing the U.S. to shift its diplomatic heft behind the Islamist group.
Mrs. Clinton used her remarks to stress continuity in an alliance that has buttressed regional peace for decades.
“We believe America’s shared strategic interests with Egypt far outnumber our differences,” she said.
Mrs. Clinton made no direct reference to Mr. Morsi’s Brotherhood. But the startling sight of an American Secretary of State seated next a bearded Islamist president has stirred recrimination and even hostility from the secular-minded political factions who once counted on American largess.
Egypt’s military council has said the decision to dissolve parliament must be upheld, after new President Mohammed Mursi ordered the assembly to reopen.
The military closed parliament last month after a court ruling.
Its latest intervention is seen by some as a challenge and warning to the president, who was sworn in barely a week ago.
It could be the first confrontation between the military and the president since Mr Mursi’s election.
On President Mursi’s orders, the speaker has convened a meeting of parliament on Tuesday.
Crowds were gathering in Tahrir Square ahead of the meeting called for 10:00 (08:00 GMT) in defiance of the military’s decision.
The Muslim Brotherhood - Mr Mursi’s power base, which has the biggest bloc of seats in parliament - said it would participate on Tuesday “in a million-man march in support of the president’s decision and reinstating parliament”.
The military council said it was confident “all state institutions” would respect the law and constitution.
The BBC’s Jon Leyne, in Cairo, says the political truce in Egypt appears to be over.
It is unclear how events will unfold as the situation - with the new president elected without a new constitution being drafted, and the parliament theoretically dissolved - is unprecedented, analysts say.
Mexico chose as its new president Sunday Enrique Peña Nieto, a dashing, disciplined campaigner who promised to bring peace and prosperity back to a country weary of drug violence and slow growth, according to official projections by election officials.
As the new face of a political party once known for corruption, Peña Nieto and his Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), completed a remarkable act of political rehabilitation, returning to power after 12 years on the sidelines.
To chants of “Presidente! Presidente!” from a roaring crowd at his political party’s headquarters in Mexico City, Peña Nieto strode to the stage just before midnight for his victory speech. With the kind of messaging, discipline and stagecraft that have marked his campaign from the beginning, the 45-year-old former governor insisted “Mexico won today” — repeating a new catchphrase already printed on banners for the event.
“There’s no going back to the past,” Peña Nieto said, promising a break with the old autocratic style of his PRI forefathers, known in Mexico as the dinosaurs, in favor of a “modern, democratic, transparent” presidency.
“We are a new generation,” he said.
In the past week Egypt’s Mohamed Morsi has rung up a string of firsts. The first freely elected president in Egyptian history. The first Islamist head of state in the Arab world. And first in line to receive the blame - or the praise - for the Egyptian ship of state’s course. At the moment, it has practically run aground amid political turmoil and a shrinking economy.
The tasks in front of Morsi are daunting. Investment in Egypt has collapsed since Hosni Mubarak was driven from power by a popular uprising in January and February of 2011, the country’s senior officers have demanded an increased share of formal political power, and a politicized judiciary has become an erratic, unpredictable player in the country’s politics - dissolving the freely elected parliament, considering a petition to ban the Muslim Brotherhood that drove Morsi to the presidency, and making pronouncements on the constitutionality of efforts to write a new constitution.
And though Morsi won the presidency fair and square, the Egyptian public is sharply divided. Ahmed Shafiq, a retired officer who served as Mubarak’s last appointed prime minister and who represented the military class’s interests in the presidential race, received over 49 percent of the national vote. Some of those votes were out of a straightforward desire for the stability that largely prevailed under Mubarak’s military-backed regime. But many were cast against an Islamist presidential candidate whose organization’s stated goal is the imposition of the Islamic sharia on Egypt’s people..
Egypt’s military rulers on Sunday officially recognized Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood as the winner of Egypt’s first competitive presidential election, handing the Islamists both a symbolic triumph and a potent weapon in their struggle for power against the country’s senior generals.
Mr. Morsi, 60, an American-trained engineer and a former lawmaker, now stands ready to become the first non-military figure to lead Egypt in generations. But 16 months after the military took over at the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, Mr. Morsi’s victory is an ambiguous milestone in Egypt’s promised transition to democracy.
After a week of doubts, delays and fears of a coup since a public ballot count showed Mr. Morsi ahead, the generals have showed a measure of respect for some core elements of electoral democracy — they have accepted a political opponent over their ally, former Gen. Ahmed Shafik, after a vote that international monitors said was credible.
But Mr. Morsi’s recognition as president does little to resolve the larger standoff between the generals and the Brotherhood over the institutions of government and the future constitution. Two weeks before their promised date for giving up power, June 30, the generals instead shut down the democratically elected and Islamist-led Parliament, took over its powers to make laws and set budgets, decreed an interim constitution stripping the new president of most of his power and reimposed martial law by authorizing soldiers to arrest civilians. The generals also gave themselves an effective veto over provisions of a planned permanent constitution.
For the first time in 33 years, a new Yemeni president will be inaugurated Monday amid cautious optimism and ongoing threats of violence in the country.
Abdurabu Mansur Hadi was sworn in Saturday in the capital, Sanaa. The event cemented a power transfer deal reached in November to end months of protests and violence over former President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s longtime rule.
Saleh is expected to attend the formal inauguration.
“The inauguration on Monday will only be ceremonial and a celebration in support for Yemen’s new leader,” said Abdul Aziz Jubari, a member of Yemen’s parliament from Saleh’s General People’s Congress party.