It has been quite a week in our World as we bid farewell to a very challenging Feburary here in #Outsiders. As our team continues its' assessment, we were pleased to see that the latest effort at a Syrian ceasefire seemed to be holding (with some minor violations). Whether that is sustained is another matter as the Russians have noted that they would resume aerial bombardments of #Daesh and #Al Nusra.
We have been assessing the results out of the pivotal Iranian Elections over the last 24 hours since the polls closed. Polls were repeatedly extended to allow all who had been in line throughout the Country to vote. The first results have been quite encouraging for the reformist faction. The top two candidates for the Assembly of Experts (also referred to as Khobergan Rahbari) which supervises and elects the Supreme Leader (Supreme Guide) are Rafsanjani and Rouhani. Rafsanjani, the Ex-President and consummate power broker has garnered almost 700,000 votes. The current President, Rouhani, has garnered almost 650,000 votes as well from the Constituency of Tehran. It will be interesting to see the elections to this body in the aftermath of the elections.
We have also been assessing another potential pivotal development as the elections results in Iran continues to trickle in. Tabassi, the leading power broker in Province of Khorassan, has been taken to hospital with a brain hemorrhage. Tabbasi and his family have been the defacto "royal family" in Khorassan since the Revolution. Under a decree issued by Khomeini, he took charge of the "Qods-E-Razavi" foundation which has extensive holdings throughout Iran and is estimated to be worth around 700 Million Dollars and has an estimated income of almost 130 Million Dollars a year. All of these are estimated numbers--the exact numbers are not exactly known since these organizations are beyond the purview of State Control and are only answerable to Khameini. Tabassi--nominally in Khameini's name and acting as a deputy--oversaw it. Why Khorasan (now divided into three separate provinces) matters is that the biggest city, Mashad, is where the tomb of the 8th Shiite Imam, Reza, is located and is among the most visited cities despite its' own profound challenges. Tabbasi was a member of the Assembly of Experts and decided against standing--and whether he survives his illness remains to be seen. Iran's Official News agency reported on President Rouhani having dispatched his Health Minister to oversee Tabbasi's hospitalization and had given apparent appropriate direction to that effect. It is one of the number of stories we would be assessing as we continue to assess the aftermath of what is clearly a pivotal change election within Iran.
Beyond Iran, there is the US Elections. The South Carolina Democratic Primary was held and the apparent South Carolina "Firewall" Hillary Clinton counted on held as she had a decisive victory thanks in large part to the major African American support she had. She spoke after the election and underscored how the campaign will be going "national" as Super Tuesday Looms:
In the meantime, the GOP fight is continuing. Two sitting governors have come out in support of Donald Trump: Chris Christie and Paul Le Page. There are also reports that the US Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, is authorizing members of his caucus up for re-election (some 24 of them) to go against Trump in order to make sure that they are not engulfed as the Trump juggernaut continues so far with little or not effort by others within the GOP to stop it. Marco Rubio did finally take the fight to him during the Thursday Night Debate as the nastiness of the back-and-forth was in our view very painful to watch. This is as Some interesting stories are starting to make the headlines again as ventures such as Trump University (being sued by the New York Attorney General). What was even more striking was how two Former Presidents of Mexico have gone after Trump hard as noted in this Guardian article. We decided not to feature his more "explicit" comments made in an interview with the Fusion's Jose Ramos--but it underscores what the World thinks of Mr. Trump as he continues his ascednancy. It was also of note how Mr. Trump was adamaent about attempts to have the New York Times and the Washington Post "Pay" for "hit stories" on him--some of them being reported right now as they are stepping up scrutiny of his business dealings over the years as he called the Media "terrible".
As we assessed what the thinking was on Trump, two excerpts of two leading Conservative luminaries especially was striking that is critical : Erick Erickson and Jonah Goldberg. Erick Erickson's Column in his Daily "Resurgent" was especially striking:
When I wrote in National Review that I was against Donald Trump, I said and have maintained since his entry into the race that if Donald Trump is the Republican nominee, I would support him. No longer. Donald Trump has had no "road to Damascus" conversion. He only wants to date the preacher's daughter. Once he's gotten in her ballot box, he'll be back to his pro-abortion New York values self.
& as for Jonah Goldberg from the National Review:
The thing I don’t find amusing is that he’s an insecure bully. He really does strike me as Biff from . His cheap macho posturing and boasting is simply tacky. I see him as a sad and insecure man. And what I truly find so depressing is that millions of Americans see the same blowhard overcompensation and mistake it for strength.
Beyond the shores of America, we have also been keeping an eye on the BRICS Countries. We had been assessing the state of the "NASIIM" Countries (that we have deemed as our up and comers) as well. South Africa has been one of the members of the so-called "BRICS" which was touted as the alternative to the G8 for the longest time. South Africa has been embroiled in a profound struggle for the longest time as Jacob Zuma is engulfed in a corruption scandal and as he tries to figure out who is going to replace him. Recent rioting throughout the country has been of profound concern as the opposition continues to gather strength daily. However, one ray of hope that we saw was the Budget present by the Finance Minister that drew general praise from all quarters. This was reported recently on the actual budget numbers:
Brazil has been on the brink due to the on-going economic and political paralysis. The advent of Zika has not helped at all especially as the Rio 2016 looms large. Russia has been continually flexing its' muscle as the Economy continues to be challenged by the price of Oil. China's slowdown and continue social challenges is of continued concerns as exemplified by recent crackdown on activists as the President continues to advocate the "Party First" philosophy. Our team has continued its' "China Watch" hashtag as it assesses what the thinking of Official China is. One interesting report was how the People's Bank of China Governor was optimistic that tools were available to navigate. One very interesting development was the issuance of an APP by the State Council (China's Cabinet).
The only relative bright spot has been India (one of the two "I"s in our "NASIIM" countries that stands for rays of hope). The economy has been growing and the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, seems to be popular. As we went to press here, he was on his "Maan Ki Baat" (the equivalent of the Fire Chat) in order to help fashion the debate in the aftermath of the controversies with student deaths and with the rioting in the State of Haryana that resulted in water being cut off to the capital, New Delhi.
It has been quite a week-and quite a month. What March will bring will as always be interesting and enlightening....