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IRAN: Arab world awaits election results

June 12, 2009 |  7:56 am

Assafir cartoon

As Iranians head to the polls to elect a president, the Arab world is watching, especially the so-called "moderate Arab states," including Egypt and Saudi Arabia, who have lately been warning of a looming Iranian threat to the region.

The headline of the Saudi-owned London-based pan-Arab daily, Asharq Alawsat on Friday morning read [Iranian presidential candidate Mohsen "Rezai to Al Sharq Al Awsat: we have secured Iran's place as a power...and our people deserve a better life."

He meant better than the life they are living under incumbent president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

The Iranian president's fiery rhetoric, alleged nuclear ambitions and open support for militant groups abroad make him an unpopular figure both in the West and in those Arab states that maintain warm relations with the U.S., especially Saudi Arabia.

On the opinion page, neocon darling Amir Taheri warned that whoever becomes the next president will have to "reverse the foreign policy that led to diplomatic isolation, United Nations sanctions and threats of war" favored by Ahmadinejad.

"Whoever wins today will face a dramatically changing political scene...[he] will be faced with the difficult duty of purifying the regime from the phenomenon of alleged corruption and perhaps traitorous elements, or else disproving Ahmadinejad's accusations and restoring unity to the ranks of the ruling league," Tahiri wrote, referring to the Iranian president's recent accusations of corruption against top clerics.

Raghida Dargham, writing for The Egypt-based pan-Arab daily Al Hayat, did not conceal her pleasure at the outcome of the Lebanese elections and its possible repercussions for Iran and the region:

"[The Lebanese] voted against Lebanon becoming a seat for Iran, a military seat or a seat from which to exert influence or bargain for hegemony... it doesn't mean that the Lebanese elections are not the most important influence on the Iranian and Afghani elections or that the 'Lebanese surprise' won't yield an 'Iranian surprise' such as the probable renunciation of Ahmadinejad, and it will certainly influence the electoral balance in different Islamic countries."

Famed Egyptian journalist Fahmi Huweidi took a different view in his piece for Aljazeera online, pointing out that the Lebanese and Iranian elections are the only in the region with at least some semblance of healthy democratic competition.

"If I were to be precise in my comparison of the elections in Lebanon and Iran with their counterparts in the rest of the Arab countries, I am really comparing the inadequate with the miserable, the one-eyed with the blind."

Media outlets associated with Hezbollah, Iran's ally in Lebanon, were prudently quiet on the subject, choosing instead to report the elections as straight news except for a benign cartoon in the pro-opposition daily As-Safir.

Read more on Iran's presidential election

--Meris Lutz in Beirut

Photo: A cartoon from the editorial page of the Lebanese daily As-Safir featuring Ahmadinejad saying "I'm the majority so I have to win like the majority in Lebanon" Credit: Assafir.com

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