Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Western logic on Syria: ‘We need to bomb it to save it’

The military buildup in the Mediterranean indicates that Assad’s opponents intend to militarily intervene in Syria under cover of ‘humanitarian intervention’, a disingenuous narrative that could not be further from the truth. Pictures and videos that have surfaced following the alleged use of chemical agents in the eastern suburbs of Damascus are profoundly disturbing and a thorough and substantial investigation into what took place there is absolutely essential. However, it is conversely disturbing that those Western governments who have staunchly supported anti-government militants are using this opportunity to legitimize the use of force against the government in Damascus.

The United States, Britain, and France are unwavering in their assertions that the Assad government and the Syrian Arab army were the perpetrators of the chemical weapon attack, despite no evidence to substantiate these claims. These governments seem to be sure that Damascus is guilty on the basis of it preventing a UN investigation team from visiting the site, and when investigators eventually did reach the area, it didn’t matter to them because they argued that the Syrian government had destroyed all evidence of wrongdoing. Assad’s opponents have constructed a deeply cynical and hysterical political narrative that Western leaders are now parroting in unison.

Read the full story on RT.com

Nile Bowie is a Malaysia-based political analyst and a columnist with Russia Today. He also contributes to PressTV, Global Research, and CounterPunch. He can be reached at nilebowie@gmail.com.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Financial Fukushima: Is ‘Abenomics’ making Japan ‘Abenauseous’?

While Japan faces mounting risks and a dangerous cleanup at the failed Fukushima nuclear plant, the situation may be similarly bleak for the Japanese economy in the short term. Ladies and Gentlemen, Japan is basically screwed. There are no two ways about it – with its rapidly-aging population, the unmanageable environmental disaster in Fukushima, and government debt to GDP levels at a staggering +240 percent, Japan will soon be teetering on the brink of a very turbulent situation.

Mainstream financial pundits and prominent Western economists have had a lot of nice things to say about Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's highly-touted ‘Abenomics’ economic reform program, and Abe’s strong mandate in recent parliamentary elections was treated as a green light to continue pressing ahead. But there is reason to believe that Japan may not be able to finance its gargantuan pile of debt for much longer.

Read the full story on RT.com

Nile Bowie is a Malaysia-based political analyst and a columnist with Russia Today. He also contributes to PressTV, Global Research, and CounterPunch. He can be reached at nilebowie@gmail.com.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Ulver's MESSE I.X-VI.X

For two decades, the music of Ulver has both challenged and transfixed. The Norwegian group delves into thick layers of avant-garde that most casual listeners would not so easily commit to, but for those that do, the experience is rewarding. Their eclectic catalogue is not bound to genre – from folk and uncompromising raw black metal in their early days, to trip-hop, glitch, film score, and psychedelic rock in their more recent offerings. In my view, Ulver are not recording artists in the traditional sense, but artists who use sound as their medium, as a sculptor would use clay. Their latest album, MESSE I.X–VI.X, is an intimate and compelling recording that is indicative of the group’s continual maturity in its quality and scope of work. The record is haunting, contemplative, empathetic and consistent with Ulver’s previous albums in that solemnity is its constant. The Tromsø Chamber Orchestra commissioned the music on the album, and Ulver’s ability to seamlessly weave together orchestrational score with electronic soundscapes is what defines this record. 

The opening track, “As Syrians pour in, Lebanon grapples with ghosts of a bloody past,” is Ulver’s response to the war that has shaken the Levant region for some time now. When vocalist Kristoffer Rygg was asked about the significance of the song title in an interview, he conceded that “We live in troubled times,” and that Ulver has “no [political] ideology for sale. Only our sadness.” Sounds of vultures and gunfire echo under the droning low-end reverberations throughout the track while somber melodies build, giving rise to choiring hymns. The first movements of orchestration around the four-minute mark strike the listener with a haunting sharpness that is as evocative as it is beautiful. The music’s atmosphere conjured in my mind’s eye images of suffering suggested by the title – the shattered lives, the innocents, the lines of bodies in white shrouds, al-Houla – and yet the movements and elegant passages also bring compassion and resolve. 

The record flows impeccably into rhythmic electronic textures that bare some resemblance to Coil’s later work, albeit Ulver places greater emphasis on melody, and the marriage of organic and synthetic sound. The warm electronic passages, often accompanied by orchestra, dancing feedback and digital textures, soothe and rivet the ears. The use of percussion is sparse, but it boldly accentuates the ambiance when it is present. Vocals are heard for the first time halfway through the album on “Son of man” and they come in the form of a plea, seeking deliverance and solace. Ulver’s lyrical themes are almost always philosophical in nature, and in reflection of the sins of mankind, the destruction and sacrifice, Rygg wailingly delivers the line “What kind of choir of angels will receive us?” I wonder that question a lot to myself too. The crescendo of percussion, electronics and orchestra that follows is perhaps the most determined and hopeful moment throughout. The climax of the track is one of the highpoints of Ulver’s entire catalogue.

The subtlety of the quiet moments and their withdrawn undertones bridge together more complex arrangements, where noise and samples are sculpted in to a new tangible form, as masterfully heard in “Noche oscura del alma”. The album’s conclusion, “Mother of Mercy,” opens with a ballad, a similar plea, offering words that evoke images of old Jerusalem and the plight of Christ, giving way to a gradual finale, both melancholic and anxious over sounds of prayer and worship. Alas, we live in troubled times. Ulver has overcome and has ascended to a higher stage with MESSE I.X–VI.X. Masterful is the only word for it. The sounds are as elegant as they are morose, while the compositional soundscapes are erudite and innovative. The group has defied industry norms by cutting themselves free of intermediaries while producing and manufacturing the album themselves, and the sacrifices they’ve made for their art are highly appreciated by Ulver’s small but dedicated fan base. Ulver are both pioneers and wanderers of their genre, and one would hope that their catalogue would expand for a long time to come.

Click here to purchase a digital copy of MESSE I.X–VI.X from Ulver's webshop.

Nile Bowie is a Malaysia-based political analyst and a columnist with Russia Today. He also contributes to PressTV, Global Research, and CounterPunch. He can be reached at nilebowie@gmail.com.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Bahrain protests: Will the House of Khalifa fall like a house of cards?

Mass protests in Bahrain are by no means a sectarian conflict, though they threaten to further entrench political polarization and serve as an ugly thorn in the Bahraini monarchy’s side unless they hear the popular calls for constitutional reform. Despite Bahraini PM Sheikh al-Khalifa’s warning to pro-democracy activists that they face longer prison sentences and the stripping of their citizenship if they take part in August 14’s scheduled opposition rally, protesters are expected to take to the streets en masse.

The tiny island nation has seen near-daily protests and skirmishes between demonstrators and security forces since the regional Arab Spring protests in 2011, and the US-allied monarchy has responded with draconian measures that ban public demonstrations in the capital, Manama. The ongoing protest movement, which has been secular and largely peaceful, brought more than half the country’s 535,000 citizens onto the streets at its peak, but attracted minimal levels of attention from international media outlets. The scant coverage of the subsequent crackdown by Bahraini authorities, which included the military occupation of a public hospital and the arrest of doctors who treated injured protesters, has led many to suggest that Western and Gulf media outlets have been complicit in the monarchy’s efforts to suppress news of protests coming out of the country.

The brute heavy-handedness of the monarchy, which led to the deaths of some 80 people since 2011, may have driven people into their homes and discouraged them from speaking out, but public animosity toward the reactionary regime shows no sign of letting up.

Read the full story on RT.com

Nile Bowie is a Malaysia-based political analyst and a columnist with Russia Today. He also contributes to PressTV, Global Research, and CounterPunch. He can be reached at nilebowie@gmail.com.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Mugabe victory in Zimbabwe: Dictatorship or Decolonization?

With another 5 years in power, Mugabe promises to expand his “indigenization” policy, whose failure would beget a drying up of foreign investment and increased economic isolation. After Robert Mugabe has secured another five-year term as president of Zimbabwe, his self-empowerment policy, which gives black Zimbabweans a 51 percent stake in all existing foreign owned businesses, will hopefully inspire a regional shift towards pro-indigenization policies. 

Few modern African leaders have been both so passionately supported and endlessly condemned as President Robert Mugabe, an ardent nationalist and black liberation figure who has ruled Zimbabwe since its independence in 1980. Despite the hardships and crippling hyperinflation brought on by Western sanctions as a result of ethnically polarizing land reform policies, Mugabe’s legacy as the country’s national liberator – as the man who laid down the core demands for national independence, and won – provokes an intense national fervor that has secured his victory in every election. 

It wasn’t so long ago that every inch of Zimbabwe, once known as “Rhodesia” after the British mining magnet Cecil Rhodes, was owned by a clique of white colonialists who made up 4.3 percent of the population. The masses of black Africans were brutally enslaved and forced to live under punishing exploitation, while Zimbabwe’s land and natural resources were taken violently and divided amongst European settlers. The landslide victory of Mugabe in late July 2013 elections suggests that much of the population views him as the answer to the post-independence “black man's burden” – reaping meager profits from resources exploited by multinationals while continuing to be subservient to non-Africans who monopolize the continent’s most arable land.

Read the full story on RT.com

Nile Bowie is a Malaysia-based political analyst and a columnist with Russia Today. He also contributes to PressTV, Global Research, and CounterPunch. He can be reached at nilebowie@gmail.com.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Elections in Mali: Francophile A vs. Francophile B

While many citizens long for stability as Mali holds its first presidential elections since the 2012 coup, France and others are positioning themselves to reap the rewards of military intervention from the impoverished resource-rich nation.

As one of the world’s poorest countries, day-to-day life in Mali has never been easy for the vast majority of the people, but the situation has significantly deteriorated since the March 2012 military-coup that deposed democratically elected President Amadou Toumani Touré just weeks before scheduled elections. The borders of Mali, once known as "French Sudan," are based on boundaries drawn by French colonists who took little notice of the ethnic homogeneity of the groups living within the lines they drew across the map, the ramifications of which still create deep-seated tribal and ethnic conflicts across Africa today. Mali is defined socially as well as economically between the fertile south where the capital Bamako is located, and an arid neglected north where ethnic Tuaregs have long sought autonomy. The coup’s main protagonist, Captain Amadou Sanogo, had been handpicked by the Pentagon to participate in an international military education and training program sponsored by the US State Department.

After several stints in the United States undertaking military education, Sanogo returned to Mali and staged the coup, which he justified by accusing President Touré’s regime of being complacent and unable to quell the latest Tuareg rebellion in the north. The EU and US, along with international institutions like the World Bank, immediately cut aid and slapped sanctions on the desperately poor import-reliant nation, which only exacerbated disorder and war-like conditions, making any advance against the Islamists impossible. Despite its impoverishment, Mali is an Eldorado of sorts, boasting massive gold reserves, uranium deposits, as well as diamonds and oil. The outrage over the coup displayed in European capitals had more to do with Touré being a Francophile, and a guarantor of stability for foreign multinationals, despite his democratic credentials. Many in Bamako empathized with Sanogo’s position and supported the coup; people were even seen in the streets of Bamako with placards bearing slogans like “Down with the International Community” in the wake of the economic embargo being imposed.

Read the full story on RT.com

Nile Bowie is a Malaysia-based political analyst and a columnist with Russia Today. He also contributes to PressTV, Global Research, and CounterPunch. He can be reached at nilebowie@gmail.com.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Will Rouhani bring a tectonic shift to Iran's political landscape?

Nile Bowie discusses the challenges and controversies of recent Iranian political developments with award-winning journalist Kourosh Ziabari:

NB: Hassan Rouhani, a reform-minded moderate cleric and former nuclear negotiator under President Khatami, will be Iran's new president. There is talk in Washington of direct US-Iran talks in light of Rouhani coming to power. Rouhani campaigned on a platform of trying to “normalize” relations with the West, and he even made statements like, “It is good to have centrifuges running, provided people's lives and livelihoods are also running." Given Rouhani’s stance, did the Iranian public treat these elections as a public referendum on the nuclear issue? And how did Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei interpret the results?
KZTo be honest with you, I should confess that the June 14 presidential elections in Iran was firstly an examination for the current of extremist rightists who believed that the country's affairs could be managed through maintaining hostility and animosity with the Western world, prolonging the nuclear controversy and relying on skimpy business and trade with Russia and China. The candidate of this stream, Mr. Saeed Jalili, simply attracted an insignificant minority of the votes, 11.37%. I'm not saying that succumbing to the irrational demands of the world powers is a solution to Iran's problems, but the political parties and streams supporting Mr. Jalili, who was supposedly Dr. Rouhani's main contender, but came third in the final vote, irresistibly believed that the nuclear standoff with the West was not something significant and crucial for the future of the country. This is while Dr. Rouhani and his massive supporters had astutely come to the conclusion that the nuclear issue was the country's main concern and the Achilles heel that was paralyzing the country's economy, political structure and international stature. 
 As a result, Dr. Rouhani based his campaign slogans on his foreign policy priorities which included the normalization of relations with the West in general, and the United States in particular, interaction with the outside world, improving Iran's ties with its neighboring countries and finally bringing the controversy surrounding Iran's nuclear program to an end. As you precisely mentioned, the recent elections in Iran have been a public referendum on the nuclear issue. Even the most ordinary Iranian citizen had recognized that the staggering inflation, unusual supply of money in the society, the skyrocketing increase in the price of consumer goods, housing and automobiles, the unprecedented devaluation of Iran's currency, Rial, and the annoying unemployment of the educated youth all stemmed from mismanagement in Iran's nuclear program. According to some critics of President Ahmadinejad's foreign policy, if nuclear energy is our inalienable right, which unquestionably is, then cheap and inexpensive foodstuff, medicine and medical services, safe and secure transportation, a renewed aviation fleet, high-speed internet connection, employment, housing, free education and proper income are our inalienable rights, as well. As for the Supreme Leader, he doesn't seem to be dissatisfied with the results, but of course his favorite president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is leaving the office, and after all, Dr. Hassan Rouhani is a reformist, and Ayatollah Khamenei has been traditionally unfriendly with the reform-minded politicians, unlike the late founder of Islamic Revolution Imam Khomeini.
NB: When Rouhani was Iran’s nuclear negotiator, he played a key role in reaching an agreement with France, Britain and Germany that resulted in Iran suspending its uranium enrichment program. Would Rouhani concede to freezing the country’s civilian nuclear program to ease Western pressure, despite Iran being an abiding signatory to the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty? What could the response be from the Supreme Leader if Rouhani accepts US measures that are deemed to be wholly unfavorable to Iran?
KZWell, as you may have noted, President Rouhani implied during his first press conference on June 17 that the age of suspending uranium enrichment has passed. He says this because Rouhani is not alone in making decisions about Iran's nuclear program. We have the parliament's (Majlis) influential Foreign Policy and National Security Committee which is consisted of a number of conservative lawmakers mostly opposed to the reformist movements in Iran who boldly and resolutely resist the decisions of the president if they wish, the state TV which is supervised by the representative of the Supreme Leader and has a great impact on the course of political developments in the country, and above all, the Supreme Leader himself, who has the final say on the most of foreign policy issues, particularly the nuclear issue and the possible direct negotiations with the United States. 
 So, suspending the enrichment of uranium which is seen as an unforgivable crime in Iran, cannot be put on agenda. However, everything depends on the craftsmanship of President Rouhani who has demonstrated that as a diplomat, he is able to handle the affairs in such a way that all the disputes can be settled in a short period of time. He may give certain concession to the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, UK and the U.S.) which neither the Supreme Leader nor the parliament hardliners can criticize or deny. For example, he may accept a temporary suspension of uranium enrichment in return for the freezing of the banking and gold sanctions. As the next step, he may put forward the offer that Iran can ship a certain amount of its low-enriched uranium (LED) to France or Russia and receive fuel rods for using in Tehran Research Reactor. 
This step can be reciprocated by the lifting of EU's oil embargo against Iran. Finally, Iran can promise to suspend its 20% enrichment of uranium, and continue enriching uranium to the extent of 3.5%, as it was doing before 2003. This can be a promising and serious sign that Iran is determined to resolve the nuclear standoff. And as a reward, the United States and European Union can lift all the sanctions and move toward the full normalization of relations with Iran and settle the remaining disputes on such cases as human rights, Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the U.S. support for the anti-Iran terrorist cult MKO. In this path, both parties should learn to forget about the past grievances and only contemplate on the future. Such an approach would guarantee Iran's rights under the Non-Proliferation Treaty to have a peaceful nuclear program, and will alleviate the concerns of the international community regarding the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear activities.
NB: In the run up to the recent elections, Washington cast doubt over the legitimacy of the electoral process in Iran, while many mainstream analysts implied that these elections would somehow be controlled by the Supreme Leader, and that his candidate would surely be the winner. The opposite turned out to be true, with the only reformist being elected with a strong majority. Do you think these elections were portrayed fairly by Western media?
KZThe electoral process in Iran had not been frequently challenged and questioned by the Western powers prior to the 2009 presidential election which was marred with the allegations of vote-rigging. It was surely an irretrievable damage to Iran's public image in the world; however, we should scientifically investigate and figure out whether the reelection of President Ahmadinejad was fraudulent or not. At any rate, this was the only election in the Islamic Republic's history which was labeled with vote-rigging, and I cannot say for sure if the allegations leveled by the West are true. Of course we had several parliamentary and presidential elections in which the reformists came to power; so it's not the case that those who are elected are necessarily the hand-picked choices of the Supreme Leader. 
At least in the 2013 election, it was demonstrated that those who undermine Iran's electoral process have been thinking wrongfully. A reformist president was elected who certainly was not the favorite choice of the Supreme Leader. The portrayal of Iran's presidential elections by the Western mainstream media resembles their general depiction of the Iranian society, their attitude toward the cultural, social and political developments in Iran and their viewpoint toward the Iranian lifestyle. They cannot detach themselves from the cliches which they have been parroting about Iran. This lopsided, impartial and biased portrayal of Iran has caused millions of American and European citizens to think of Iran as a retarded, uncivilized, deserted and miserable country with people who are not familiar with the representations of the modern civilization. Of course they don't allow their audience to know that Iran is a country which had once stood atop the peaks of human civilization, science, literature and "decent" way of living...
NB: What does Rouhani’s victory say about the changing political sentiments in Iran after two terms of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? Where is Iran today after Ahmadinejad more generally – in terms of economic and social conditions? How do you think Iranians will remember Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?
KZ: Well, it's wrong to evaluate the performance of politicians in black and white. Like every other president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has had remarkable contributions to his society, and of course pitfalls and shortcomings which deteriorated the lives of the Iranians across the country. However, I think for the majority of Iranians, especially those who live in the urban areas, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's tenure will be remembered as a period of economic hardships, political tensions and social restrictions as manifested in the closure of newspapers, cultural associations like the House of Cinema and the Association of Iranian Journalists. 
Ahmadinejad, as the second non-cleric president of Iran's history, could have left a memorable legacy for the Iranian people, but by selecting incompetent managers, disallowing the journalists and experts to critique and evaluate his performance, taking up an aggressive and confrontational foreign policy and attending to the issues which were not relevant to him, tarnished his own reputation. But please don't forget that once he was in power, I always supported him and his administration against the spates of attacks being unleashed on him by the Western media, but now that he is leaving office, it's time to talk about the tough 8 years we had with him more transparently. Let's bear this in mind, that criticizing Ahmadinejad is not equivalent to being opposed to the Iranian government or the Islamic system. We all stand by our country and defend it against the ill-wished, ill-mannered enemies, but now, we want a peaceful and constructive interaction with the world instead of enmity and hostility.
NB: Iran’s model of religious democracy is basically unprecedented – it aims to blend modern participatory electoral politics together with a system of governance based upon Islamic ethics, administered by religious officials. Despite hardships and difficulties imposed by Western sanctions since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, it is a political system that continues to claim massive public support. What are Iran’s biggest achievements? Have attitudes both internationally and domestically changed towards Iran after the recent elections in contrast to what happened in 2009?
KZUnquestionably, the Islamic Revolution of 1979 was a turning point in the course of Iran's contemporary history. It brought to an end frequent years of Iranian government's subservience and obedient to the United States. The revolution emerged out of several years of civil protests against the tyrannical government of Mohammad Reza Shah. The Pahlavi dynasty had blatantly denied the Iranian citizens their basic political, social and economic rights. The whole country was kept in a constant state of underdevelopment and backwardness, the equal distribution of wealth was not on the government's agenda and the economic situation of the country was really deplorable. Although the foreign diplomacy of Iran was vivacious thanks to the strong relationships the court had with the White House, people were usually dissatisfied with their living conditions. The government was unable to meet the people's demands and provide them with the facilities they needed for a moderate life. 
Following the revolution, the number of universities, schools, hospitals, roads, sports stadiums, housing units, department stores, cinemas, theaters, public libraries, factories, power plants and other infrastructures needed for the development of the country increased significantly and a new movement began for the renovation of the country's infrastructures. You may not believe, but prior to the 1979 revolution, people in tens of major cities and thousands of villages in Iran didn't have access to electricity, drinking water, fossil fuels and safe roads. It was the revolution that swayed the government officials to think of new solutions for improving the people's livelihoods and enhancing the infrastructures. 
Imam Khomeini, the late founder of Islamic Revolution, was a reform-minded spiritual leader, and this is why certain extremist insiders at the top of the Iran's political echelon are afraid of his thoughts and his approach toward the way of managing the country's affairs. You see that two of the close allies of Imam Khomeini, namely Mirhossein Mousavi and Mahdi Karroubi were unexpectedly put under house arrest after they protested the results of the 2009 presidential elections. Their only crime was that they run against the incumbent President Ahmadinejd, otherwise, I don't see any reason for their unwarranted imprisonment. Albeit it should be added that the United States and its European allies also irreparably betrayed the reform movement by explicitly supporting Mousavi and Karroubi in the 2009 election and calling them opposition leaders, and this gave the hardliners in Iran an excuse to stigmatize them and deprive them of their political rights and somehow exclude them from the political scene. 
So, back to business, I think Imam Khomeini founded a new political system which was supposed to respond to the people's material and worldly needs while helping them realize religious and moral sublimity and remaining committed to the principles of morality and ethics. This system of government revived the lost and forgotten human values which the secular world had consigned to oblivion and even sometimes opposed. This is the main reason for the Western powers' opposition to the Islamic Republic. Since the Islamic Revolution, Iran began championing the cause of the oppressed Muslim nations, especially the people of Palestine who had been subject to Israeli occupation for decades. The Islamic Republic was predicated on resisting hypocrisy and double standards; something pervasive and ubiquitous in the Western powers' behavior. These standards cannot be tolerated and even condoned by the Western powers whose major policies are always blended with portions of hypocrisy and duplicity. This is why the Islamic Republic has so many adversaries in the world, even among the Islamic states of the Middle East. Of course the recent election has changed the international and domestic attitudes toward Iran. The new government will surely receive a more popular support from the Iranian people, and it will help the government in the nuclear negotiations to have the upper hand. The election has also signaled Iranian people's craving for moderation and rationality, instead of extremism and radicalism.
NB: Iran has previously extended its hand in efforts to cooperate with the US in specific areas, and Washington failed to honor these efforts. Is there good reason to doubt the sincerity of the US in talks with Iran? Would it give up the ‘regime change’ policy it has maintained from the start of the revolution? 
KZUndisputably, the Iranian government is right if it's dubious toward the United States and its presumed efforts to reach out to Iran. Iran has always expressed willingness to hold talks with the United States on equal footings and based on mutual respect. But the point is that whenever some rational elements in the power structure of the two countries decided to facilitate the talks, the United States killed the chances of a fruitful and beneficial negotiation by imposing sanctions. Look at the recent sanctions bill which the House of Representatives has overwhelmingly passed, by a vote of 400 to 20. The new Iranian president, as I'm answering to your questions, has not sworn in yet. But the U.S. lawmakers have imposed a new round of sanctions on Iran. What's the logic and rationale behind this new round of sanctions? How do the U.S. Congressmen justify the new oil embargo while the new Iranian president hasn't ever had the chance to sit on his chair in the presidential palace and issue the first presidential decree, which is the appointment of his ministers? So you see that radicalism and fanaticism have always harmed Iran and the United States. Of course the new round of sanctions, if approved by the Senate and signed into law by the president, will deliver a lethal blow to President Rouhani's call for moderation and interaction with the West. 
It is for sure that certain U.S. administrations, especially the Reagan and Carter administrations, and the George W. Bush's administration, had intentions for implementing the policy of regime change in Iran. Supporting, financing and aiding the terrorist cult Mujahedin-e-Khalq Organization (MKO) which has killed some 40,000 Iranians since the 1979 revolution is one of the signs indicating that the U.S. government, at certain junctures of time, pursued a policy of regime change in Iran. But there are indications that President Obama has changed this policy and that Washington has come to its senses and realized that the age of revolutions in Iran is over.
NB: Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu recently threatened Iran with military action over accusations that Tehran is building nuclear weapons, and called Rouhani a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.” American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has heavily pushed a bill seeking to impose a de facto ban on Iran's oil exports, a cut off of any trade involving the euro, and moves to target Tehran's shipping and automobile sectors. It would also curtail Washington’s ability to waive sanctions on third countries and their companies that continue to do business with Iran. Would the US take a chance to thaw relations with Iran under Rouhani in spite of Zionist pressure and significant lobbying?
KZWell, if AIPAC successfully convinces the U.S. Congress and government to ratify this bill, I can say for sure that there will never ever be a single speck of chance for a peaceful solution to the controversy over Iran's nuclear program. The Zionists will extinguish all the possible ways of reconciliation between Iran and the United States to the detriment of Washington. It's the United States which will lose a probable ally, and it is  Europe which will be deprived of a lucrative market for free trade and business. By the way; let me clarify something. At this juncture, the Iranian people feel sympathetically toward the American people and their culture and civilization. But by pursuing the Zionist agenda, the Americans will even lose the minimal support they enjoy here in Iran.
NB: Aside from the nuclear and political issues, what are the biggest issues facing the Iranian nation today? What can Rouhani do to create meaningful solutions in line with popular reforms? If his moves are not well received by the Supreme Leader, is it possible that he might stymie any significant shifts toward reform?
KZThere are several challenges ahead of President Rouhani and his team. First of all, he should sweep away the legacy of extremism that has been left in Iran's public sphere. He should bring back morality to the Iranian society. In these 8 years, the conservative media have been relentlessly attacking the reformists and their supporters, calling them seditious, mobsters and criminal. This approach should change and the conservative media should learn that there's a limit to the toleration of their destructive approach. I have always criticized these media for repeatedly insulting the reformist leaders and millions of people supporting them, saying that such media talk of their political opponents as if they are criminal Zionists massacring the defenseless people of Palestine in the Occupied Territories and the Gaza Strip! 
Accordingly, we need to address the concerns of the cultural activists, authors, journalists, musicians, movie-makers and other artists who need greater freedoms, a better environment for creating rich and exalted artworks and participating in political activities without any restrictions. Secondly, the concern Rouhani and his cabinet should address is the nation's economic woes. The country is currently facing an astounding hyperinflation, unprecedented cut in the export of oil and petrochemical products, citizens' decreased purchasing power, etc. And finally, we have the foreign policy challenges. We need to settle our unnecessary disputes with not only the Western powers, but the Arab world, our neighbors and finally the United States. We need to find a viable solution for the nuclear controversy, which will surely solve many of the nations' problems.
NB: Media reports claim that Iran’s former ambassador to the United Nations, Mohammad Javad Zarif, is Rouhani's pick as foreign minister. Zarif is said to be highly respected by those in the United States, and even Vice President Joe Biden told the Washington Post in 2007 that Zarif could “play an important role in helping to resolve our significant differences with Iran peacefully." What kind of changes do you see coming in Iran’s foreign policy? Russian President Vladimir Putin is set to visit Tehran as the first foreign guest of Rouhani. How will Iran’s relationship with Russia, and also China, grow?
KZOf course the appointment of Dr. Zarif as Iran's new foreign minister marks a significant change in Iran's foreign policy. Zarif is a reform-minded, moderate diplomat, like Rouhani himself, and he can certainly make effective contributions to a negotiated solution for Iran's nuclear deadlock. But please note that the change in Iran's foreign policy has already started, even before President Rouhani takes office. Officials from more than 40 countries are slated to attend his inauguration ceremony. Isn't this a major breakthrough for him, while he hasn't yet sworn in as the president? So, it sounds like the world is embracing Dr. Rouhani as a new president who has come to power with a slogan of moderation and constructive interaction with the world. Of course the change which I expect is that we will not be hearing adventurous statements by the foreign ministry officials, we will not find our president being left with an empty hall while addressing the UN General Assembly, we will not find our president being booed in the Columbia University and we will not find our president being called a hawk by those who are the real hawks of our world today. Iran will be hosting dignitaries from all around the world, especially given that it has assumed the presidency of the Non-Aligned Movement, but I'm sure that the whole world, including the European nations, will come to reconcile their differences with us.
Kourosh Ziabari is an award-winning Iranian journalist, writer and media correspondent writing for newspapers and journals across the world. For more on work, visit his website: http://kouroshziabari.com/

Nile Bowie is a Malaysia-based political analyst and a columnist with Russia Today. He also contributes to PressTV, Global Research, and CounterPunch. He can be reached at nilebowie@gmail.com.