Iranians head to polls to elect new President
The BBC, Reuters, Financial Times and The Times with the Presidential elections that are happening today in Iran, saying that three of the four candidates to succeed Hassan Rouhani are regarded as hardliners. Opinion polls suggest Ebrahim Raisi, a conservative Shia cleric who heads the judiciary, is the clear favourite, whilst moderate former central bank governor Abdolnasser Hemmati is his main rival.
The Telegraph reports on the Iranian elections with comments from the former President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who said he will not vote as the expected low turnout it lacks credibility and will weaken Iran. “A weak government is coming to power. And a weak government will weaken the situation in Iran. It will weaken the domestic situation and it will weaken our relations with the world. It will turn our relations with the rest of the world against Iran,” the former President said.
The Times publishes a profile of Ebrahim Raisi, who is described as a militant prosecutor and a loyal, an unflinching Islamic revolutionary.
Holly Dagres argues in The Guardian that Iran’s next president will ride a wave of voter apathy into power.
The Guardian writes that Israel has launched airstrikes on the Gaza Strip for a second time since a shaky ceasefire ended last month’s 11-day war. The strikes late on Thursday came after Palestinian militants launched incendiary balloons into Israel for a third day running. The helium-filled balloons are cheap, basic devices intended to set fire to farmland and bush surrounding the Gaza enclave.
Reuters reports that an Iranian negotiator has claimed indirect talks between Tehran and Washington on reviving the 2015 JCPOA Iran nuclear deal have come closer than ever to an agreement, but essential issues remain to be negotiated.
The BBC reports that Lebanon’s army is appealing to world powers for aid to help it survive the country’s economic collapse, which has left soldiers “suffering and hungry”. The Lebanese pound has lost 90 per cent of its value since 2019, wiping out soldiers’ salaries and the army’s budget. A donor conference hosted by France is not being asked for funds but rather food, fuel, medicine and spare parts.
US authorities pursuing a fraud investigation suspect some 4,000 Iraqis of filing fraudulent applications for resettlement in the US as refugees, and they are re-examining cases involving more than 104,000 others, according to State Department reports reviewed by Reuters.
In the Israeli media, Kan Radio reports that the cabinet is expected to establish a state commission of inquiry into the disaster on Mt. Meron in its first meeting on Sunday. It is also expected to extend IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi’s term by one year and to confirm several nominations for positions in the Foreign Ministry.
In Yediot Ahronot, Sima Kadmon writes that a Cabinet member has hinted the government could also establish a commission of inquiry into the submarine affair, which “left a black mark over Netanyahu’s government and was the primary motivating factor that led people to take to the streets”. Kadmon goes on to say that a former minister told her “that any rational person realised that there was no future with Netanyahu. Even if elections are called and we win, he’ll give away the top portfolios to the parties that agree to join his coalition. We’ll be left with the environmental protection and water portfolios. And if we don’t come to power, we’ll get the chairmanship of the Science and Technology Committee. There isn’t a [former] minister or MK in the Likud who thinks that Netanyahu will be back, someone told me. In contrast, all of them know that he’s preventing them from returning to power.”
Maariv reports on the debate inside the Likud over whether it should vote with the government on the family unification ordinance that will expire in three weeks on July 7. The ordinance has been extended every year since 2003 and denies Israeli citizenship to Palestinians from the territories who wish to unite with family members or spouses who live in Israel. Some in Likud believe the opposition should support certain issues if for matter of national security. Others argue that the Likud should demand something in return for voting with the government, such as a law to legalise illegal outposts in the West Bank. The prevailing thinking in the Likud is that a decision to vote in favour of extending the ordinance together with the coalition will be capitulation and that the opposition should make life as hard as possible for the government. Defence Minister Benny Gantz has instructed Blue and White Faction Chairman MK Eitan Ginzburg to work together with coalition chairwoman Idit Silman to ensure that all the MKs show up and vote to extend the ordinance – Meretz is unsure if it will vote in favour and the United Arab List is expected to vote against it. Silman intends to hold the vote next week, first in committee and then in the plenum. Gantz also called on Likud leader Netanyahu to ensure that the ordinance is passed.
Yediot Ahronot reports that Syria wants to hold talks with Israel. Nadal Eyal writes for the paper about the rumours concerning talks between Israeli and Syrian security officials. “Some examples: an article for an American research institute by an expert on Syria explaining the peace process and the consistent Syrian position seeking a diplomatic solution; a sensational item in relatively credible Arab media outlets about a secret meeting at the Russian air force base in Syria with Israeli, Syrian and Russian officials. The article mentioned the former chief of staff, Gadi Eisenkot. He told me that this was utterly untrue and other Israeli officials said that the item was a complete fabrication.” Eyal ponders whether the Syrians believe that Israel could give it legitimacy in Washington, help it find common ground with Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf states and help impart a sense of progress. “In other words, more than the Syrians want to talk to Israel, they want to give an impression of talking.”