With Iran continuing to dominate international news media, I thought it an important exercise to distinguish Iran from other Middle Eastern countries. 

Because of the representations of the Middle East that the U.S. is exposed to through various forms of mass media, Americans hold many stereotypes about the region: lavish sheiks, militant clerics, harems, cruel punishments, oil, and totalitarianism represent the Arab portion. The Israelis are viewed as being heroic, outnumbered, and tough. Yet, accurate representations of non-Arab countries like Iran often get lost due to the tendency of Americans to confuse and oversimplify cultural representations. 

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This site takes a pluralist approach to its analysis. Pluralism refers to an image of international relations that assumes that non-state actors (NSA) are important entities in state affairs. The state is not necessarily a rational and unitary actor, but is composed of a multitude of competing bureaucracies, individuals, and groups. The agenda of state politics is extensive and goes well beyond security concerns. Most of the work on decision making and transnationalism falls within the pluralist image as the result of a focus on a multiplicity of factors and actors. The political situation in Afghanistan is a prime example of this view’s scope.  

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The infamy of the attacks on 9/11 has had different effects in the Middle East and South Asia than it has had in the United States. While America still grieves for the victims and the innocence that was lost, many in the Muslim world see the events as a cultural lesson. A lesson that many of them believe has not yet been learned. The carnage of September 11 was vile and evil, but it could happen again. In order to understand the “how” one must look at the “why.”

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There is a great deal going on in Afghanistan currently. Reports of fraud have muddied Afghanistan’s August Presidential election where a U.N.-backed election panel has ordered recounts, and invalidated some ballots. Issues of this election share the headlines with the status of NATO forces in the country, and a New York Times reporter who was just rescued by British special forces after being taken hostage by the Taliban. One can ascertain issues that face those in Afghanistan from these recent events. 

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President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is claiming victory after the Iranian Parliament backed his cabinet choices. There have been two political debates going on in Iran since June. The first pits reformers against conservatives. Reformers believe that the election in June was stolen from them. The second stream of political conflict has been within the conservative branch of government itself. Ahmadinejad’s political party is divided, because many within the Iranian conservative movement believe that President Ahmadinejad has loaded his government with political cronies. Many have complained that Ahmadinejad is filling his cabinet with people who are personally loyal to him, and not those that are the best qualified and competent. Therefore, the debate over Ahmadinejad’s cabinet choices was not to have been between the reformers and conservatives, but between the conservatives themselves.

There had been an expectation that the president’s cabinet choices would be met with resistance, as the Iranian parliament is controlled by conservatives.  However, that debate has apparently evaporated in the current political climate. 

The Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has managed to rally the conservative politicians around Ahmadinejad. Some analysts are reporting that nearly half of Ahmadinejad’s picks would have been rejected had the Supreme Leader not gotten involved. 

With the cabinet confirmations comes the first female minister since the 1979 Iranian revolution. Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi has become the minister of Health. She is described as being very conservative. In the past, she has proposed segregated healthcare in Iran, with only women treating women and only men treating men. Her appointment could radically effect how healthcare is performed in Iran. 

Two other women proposed by Ahmadinejad for cabinet positions were rejected by parliament during the vetting process along with one male. 18 of the president’s 21 picks were approved.

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