Best columns: International
Iran: Farewell to the reformists’ ally
The funeral this week of former Iranian president Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani grew into a “rare display of public dissent,” said Saeed Kamali Dehghan in The Guardian (U.K.). More than 2 million mourners turned out as Rafsanjani, who died of heart failure at age 82, was buried in the mausoleum of his close friend Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini—the revolutionary leader who overthrew Iran’s shah in 1979. Many of the mourners wore green wristbands, symbolizing the pro-reform Green movement, and they chanted the names of opposition leaders under house arrest. Other mourners shouted anti-Russian slogans, reflecting the Iranian people’s discontent with the war in Syria, where Iran is allied with Russia in support of the brutal Syrian regime. As the procession passed, Rafsanjani’s daughter, Faezeh Hashemi, a women’s rights and reform advocate who was jailed during the Green protests in 2009, flashed the crowd a victory sign, a gesture “seen as an indication of her continued support for change.”
Iran’s reformists know they have lost their most powerful ally in Rafsanjani, said Omid Khazani in AlJazeera.com. As president from 1989 to 1997 he was a ruthless figure, suppressing dissent by authorizing the execution of several prominent liberals and leftists. Yet over the decades he became a kind of grandfather figure for reformers. An advocate of artistic freedom and women’s rights, he ran again for president in 2005 but lost to the hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whom he openly criticized. After the Guardian Council refused to let him run in 2013, Rafsanjani picked an unknown, Hassan Rouhani, to run on a slogan of “moderation and prudence.” Rouhani won that vote. But without his powerful backer, he and other reformists could soon be pushed aside by hard-liners.
The nuclear deal with the U.S. and other major world powers could be the first casualty, said Kim Sengupta in Independent.co.uk. Hard-liners have long chafed at the 2015 deal, which required Iran to destroy many of its uranium-enrichment centrifuges, and give up the ability to produce weapons-grade plutonium, in exchange for sanctions relief. They are now “claiming that President Rouhani was tricked into the deal by treacherous America,” and if an incoming President Donald Trump were to put new sanctions on Iran, these hardliners could well scrap the deal altogether. Even before that, their criticism and the loss of Rafsanjani could ensure that Rouhani loses his bid for re-election in May.
For now, though, Iran mourns, said Hamidreza Jalaipour in Sharq (Iran). Rafsanjani was the one person who had everyone’s trust. As chair of the Expediency Council, he “played the role of a bridge between the two sides of the government,” resolving disputes between the reformist-dominated legislature and the hard-line Guardian Council. It is largely “thanks to him that the Islamic Republic is not entirely a theocracy.” Deprived now of his calm and wise mediation, we can only hope that the various forces in Iran find a new way to talk to one another.
Our carmakers needn’t fear Trump
The Globe and Mail
Donald Trump hasn’t even taken office yet and he’s already shaken up the global auto industry, said Jim Stanford. Car companies are nervous that Trump will slap tariffs on imports, and Ford has already canceled a planned $1.6 billion factory in Mexico and sent some 700 jobs to Michigan instead. That means “the southward rush of capital to Mexico, exploiting cheap production costs, will now screech to a sudden halt.” But don’t worry, Canadians, this is not a bad trend for us. While the U.S. has a $70 billion annual auto trade deficit with Mexico, the auto trade between the U.S. and Canada is largely balanced. Sure, we sell more finished ve hicles to the Americans than we import from them, “but we buy a lot more parts from the U.S.” That means that any disruption to the $135 billion twoway auto trade between our nations would hurt the U.S. just as much as us, which is why Trump is unlikely to take that step. In fact, “by stopping the migration of industrial capital toward Mexico,” Trump will help rev up Canada’s auto industry and other manufacturing sectors harmed by the North American Free Trade Agreement. Rather than opposing Trump’s economic plans, Canadians should embrace this “opportunity to imagine a different way of managing globalization.”
Is USAID just a front for the CIA?
The Sri Lankan government has invited the CIA to remake our democratic structures, said Lasanda Kurukulasuriya. That’s the conclusion we can draw from the news that a $13.7 million USAID program for democracy and accountability here is to be implemented by the private U.S. company Development Alternatives Inc. (DAI), widely believed to be “a CIA front.” Venezuela’s socialist government has accused the Maryland-based firm of undermining its authority by overtly helping the opposition. Analysts who have studied Venezuela and other countries have concluded that the CIA subverts governments on “the pretext of promoting democ racy.” Will that happen here? When the Sri Lankan government struck a deal last September to accept aid from the U.S., it didn’t tell voters or even the legislature that the program would be accountable not to “Sri Lankan law but to the laws and regulations of the U.S.” Surely it is a serious dereliction of responsibility for our government to allow “politically sensitive internal reforms to be ‘outsourced’ in this manner to foreign agencies.” It’s clear that the U.S., which accused former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa of heading toward authoritarianism, supports the current government. Are we to become just another U.S. puppet?