"Though Iran has been broadcasting pictures and videos of top state officials and noted foreign dignitaries visiting Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in the hospital, the health of the man who has held the most powerful post in the Islamic Republic remains unclear. The unusual public relations management of what has been described as a prostate surgery suggests Tehran may be preparing the nation and the world for a transition to a third supreme leader. Iranian efforts to project an atmosphere of normalcy conceal concerns among players in the Iranian political system that a power vacuum will emerge just as the Islamic republic has reached a geopolitical crossroads.
Any transition comes at the most crucial time in the 35-year history of the Islamic Republic due to unprecedented domestic political shifts underway and, more importantly, due to international events.
Pragmatic conservative President Hassan Rouhani's election in June 2013 elections led to a social, political and economic reform program facing considerable resistance from within the hard-right factions within the clerical and security establishments. The biggest issue between the presidential camp and its opponents is the ongoing process of negotiations with the United States over the Iranian nuclear program. After an unprecedented breakthrough in November 2013 that saw an interim agreement, the negotiation process has hit a major snag, with a final agreement not reached by a July 20, 2014, deadline, though the deadline for negotiations was extended to Nov. 24, 2014. Some form of partial agreement had been expected, with talks kicking into high gear ahead of the opening session of the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York on Sept. 18. A mood of pessimism in Tehran has since been reported, however, with senior Foreign Ministry officials prepping the media for the eventuality that the talks might fail. The risk of failure comes from the fact that Rouhani can only go so far in accepting caps on Iran's ability to pursue a civilian nuclear program before his hawkish opponents will gain the upper hand in Iran's domestic political struggle. Stratfor sources say Rouhani did not want to attend this year's General Assembly, but Foreign Minister Mohammad-Javad Zarif reportedly convinced the president that his visit might help the negotiating process. As if the negotiation itself was not enough of a problem for Rouhani, the U.S. move to support rebel forces in Syria that would fight both the Islamic State and Iran's ally, the Assad regime, is a major problem for Tehran. U.S. and Iranian interests overlapped with regard to the IS threat in Iraq. But in Syria, the United States must rely on anti-Iranian actors to fight IS and the Obama administration seeks to topple the Assad regime. Accordingly, less than a year after the two sides embarked upon a rapprochement, tensions seem to be returning. On top of this stressor, uncertainties surrounding Khamenei's health have shifted Iran's priorities to the search for a new supreme leader. The unusual manner in which Tehran continues to telegraph Khamenei's hospitalization to show that all is well -- while at the same time psychologically preparing the country and the outside world for the inevitable change -- coupled with the (albeit unverified) 2010 release by WikiLeaks of a U.S. diplomatic cable reporting that the supreme leader was suffering from terminal cancer suggests the political establishment in Tehran is preparing for a succession." (STRATFOR)
*3 vacancies in House: 2 Safe D, 1 Safe R
"Another week is down the drain in the race for the Senate, and while our overall outlook is unchanged — a five to eight seat gain for the GOP — some of our ratings are in need of adjustments.
One of these comes as a surprise, as Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) is proving to be quite resilient.Several Democrats privately expressed to us earlier this year their pessimism about Hagan’s chances. They didn’t think she had the wherewithal and entrenched image of someone like Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), who is a much more respected campaigner. But now those same Democrats, to their surprise, believe Hagan can now win. And we’ve seen a lot of polling, both public and private, indicating that she is ahead, though she’s closer to 45% than 50%, which is still tenuous territory for a Democratic incumbent in a Republican year. The problem for Republicans in the Tar Heel State is that Thom Tillis, their candidate and the speaker of the state House of Representatives, has particularly poor numbers for a challenger: His unfavorables are usually higher than his favorables, and not just by a few points. It’s not hard to imagine that a more generic Republican who is not tied to the unpopular state legislature — someone like Landrieu’s main challenger in Louisiana, nondescript Rep. Bill Cassidy (R) — would be doing better here. Hagan’s numbers aren’t great, either, though they appear to be improving: There’s some indication that her favorability is inching up to near an even split, meaning her favorability and unfavorability ratings would be about the same. And even though the president remains unpopular nationally, this state is several points more Democratic than Alaska, Arkansas, or Louisiana, three states where Democratic incumbents with deeper roots and better reputations as campaigners are in more trouble than Hagan is at the moment. President Obama’s not the drag here that he is in those states, though he is still a drag. For all these reasons, we’re moving North Carolina from Toss-up to Leans Democratic." (SabatosCrystalBall)
"CNN’s Fareed Zakaria is facing a growing list of plagiarism accusations with several recent examples coming from his CNN show. On Tuesday, the site OurBad Media, which has released previous examples of alleged plagiarism by Zakaria, released more than 20 new examples. We’ve reached out to CNN multiple times about the new claims, but have not received an on-the-record comment. A spokesperson referred us to previous comments given during earlier claims of plagiarism. The most recent example is a video compilation showing a clip from a 2011 episode of 'Fareed Zakaria GPS' matched with a 2010 documentary called 'Justice for Sergei.' The 'GPS' segment uses footage from the 2010 documentary, with an upper left courtesy, but Zakaria’s narration is lifted, nearly word-for-word, from the documentary. In another 2011 segment, Zakaria tracks a package on the lack of an operating government in Belgium. Parts of the wording in that story are identical to sections of a TIME article on the same subject." (TVNewser)
"Yesterday I didn’t get to the Michael’s lunch because my date canceled. I usually revel in cancellations especially if there’s a lot going on later in the day. Although I like seeing the crowd on Wednesdays because it gets an added zip to the turnout. Not infrequently stars – all kinds, political, business, media, movie, tv – appear and jazz up the atmosphere especially on Wednesday. So I wasn’t there, but I got a list from Steve Millington, the general manager, that gave me the rundown. A lot of familiar names to this reporter and probably to you too if you’re a regular reader even if you don’t know who the hell they are. I often don’t know either. Except New York works like any other neighborhood – if you see them around enough, and then you eventually hear a word or two about them or even meet them, and suddenly you 'know' them. Yesterday’s lineup looked like this. Joan Gelman and sons Josh and Gregg (Gregg is on our HOUSE); Nikki Haskell and Rikki Klieman; next to them were Shari and Ed Rollins with Robert Zimmerman at Table One. Just at Joe Armstrong’s usual table (he’s in Texas for the week) were Duh Boyz, Dr. Imber, Gerry Della Femina, Michael Kramer, Jeff Greenfield, Andy Bergman. At their usual table – next to the one they were at – was Linda Fairstein who was celebration her wedding with her pals Lynn Scherr, Esther Newberg, Faye Wattleton et al. Meanwhile at my usual table was Wednesday Martin with a gang of producers, Jason Binn of Du Jour was right next door ... Last night I was the official host along with the beautiful Judy Collins for a booksigning and reception for Paul Williams and Tracey Jackson. Their book is called 'Gratitude & Trust; Six Affirmations that Will Change Your Life.' Paul, as you may know, has a story to tell that includes a trip down the rocky road to addiction and alcoholism. When he was at the top of his game." (NYSD)