Insight into the Inner Workings of Iranian Politics

Mousavi supporters on the streets of Tehran, Iran, photo: Shahram Sharif/flickr
Mousavi supporters on the streets of Tehran, Iran, photo: Shahram Sharif/flickr

The people of Iran will vote for a new president on Friday, 12 June.

The race is tight. Two of the candidates have good chances of winning. Former Prime Minister Mousavi relies on a broad base of supporters, but polls show that the incumbent Ahmadinejad is the leader in Iran’s presidential elections.

According to this insightful article by ISN correspondent Kamal Nazer Yasin, the developments in Iran in the next few days will be critical. Today, the police have forbidden further displays of political loyalty in the streets. With several million people having experienced the joys of freedom in the streets of Tehran and other cities, it will be interesting to see how the government can contain popular anger once Ahmadinejad is announced the winner.

Kamal Nazer Yasin is the pseudonym of the Iran correspondent for ISN Security Watch. With deep knowledge of the Iranian political environment and 50 Security Watch articles under his name, Yasin has provided the ISN with extensive coverage of Iranian politics and its regional implications.

Is the Busman’s holiday over for UK MPs?

All aboard! (Photo: eddiedangerous/flickr)
All aboard! / Photo: eddiedangerous, flickr)

Having returned from the UK for a short break and being bombarded with increasingly extraordinary claims by our MPs for expenses I thought the ISN blog would benefit from some insights into the worst, most ridiculous and decidedly unfortunate examples.

The worst:

  • Former Conservative MP Derek Conway paid his sons Henry and Freddie £80,000, and although after investigation he paid back £16,860, further enquires found that he made payments totaling £260,000 to his immediate family over a six year period.
  • Five Sinn Fein MPs who refuse to sit in Westminster because they will not swear an allegiance to the Queen claimed over £500,000 in expenses for renting three properties in Westminster at three times the market rate according to local estate agents.
  • Labour MPs Alan and Ann Keen took out a joint life insurance policy worth £430,000 and then claimed back the £867.57 monthly premiums on their expenses.

The most ridiculous:

  • An unnamed Conservative MP claimed £380 for more than 500 bags of horse manure.
  • Another Conservative MP, David Willets, claimed £115 to have 25 light bulbs changed by an electrician for his second property.
  • Liberal Democrat MP Chris Huhne claimed £82.35 for the mounting, framing and inscription of a photo of himself – not for his constituency office but for one of his seven homes.

And the rather unfortunate:

  • Labour immigration minister Phil Woolas claimed £2.67 for feminine hygiene products and £15 for a lady’s blouse. Arguably his worst mistake was not realizing that he could have tagged these ‘personal costs’ onto his £400 monthly food allowance and saved himself the embarrassment. That was an error carefully avoided by many MPs who make the full food allowance claim even during recess when they are unlikely to be away from their main homes.
  • Labour MP Jacqui Smith’s husband claimed two blue movies on her expenses and expected the taxpayer to foot the bill.

Should MPs be able to claim thousands of pounds for televisions, stereo equipment and swimming pool cleaning, and be able to submit claims for sundry expenses up to the value of £250 without receipts? I don’t think so. Is an MPs ability to do his job enhanced by having a 42 inch Sony TV rather than one from a less ‘prestigious’ manufacturer? Again it is hard to argue that brand names contribute to productivity.

But it is the ways in which MPs have managed to subvert the rules for their own advantage which grates most strongly with me. The Telegraph has published an overview of the ways MPs have played the system – for instance by renovating properties with taxpayer money and selling them at a profit.

Here is what other bloggers are saying about this issue:

Categories
Audio/Video

Reding Says EU Not Ready for Cyberattack

Screenshot of Reding's site
Screenshot of Reding\’s site

Offering up the 2007 Estonia attacks as an example, EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media Viviane Reding says in her video blog that the EU must do more to protect member states against cyberattacks.

According to Reding, a month-long internet interruption in the US or Europe would lead to “losses of at least 150 billion euro.”

The Luxemberger took no prisoners in scolding her own organization:

“So far, the EU’s 27 Member States have been quite negligent. Although the EU has created an agency for network and information security, called ENISA, this instrument remains mainly limited to being a platform to exchange information and is not, in the short term, going to become the European headquarters of defense against cyber attacks. I am not happy with that.”

Reding believes that Europe needs a “Mister Cyber Security” (hmmm…or a “Miss” maybe?), a go-to person for when an attack is underway. The person would also be in charge of enacting plans preclude attacks.

This call is somewhat a day late and a dollar short (the EU should have gotten the message with Estonia), but Reding is on the mark in stating that the EU’s efforts have fallen far, far short.

The full video blog can be found here along with a PDF transcript.

Screenshot: Site of Viviane Reding.