From Arab News: The "Obama Effect" in Lebanon: FOREIGN policy experts and commentators have been trying to elucidate an Obama doctrine ever since the new US president took office. Lebanons surprise election result, in which a pro-Western coalition narrowly triumphed, suggests these analysts have got things the wrong way round. Whatever the theory may be, the Beirut turnabout is the first, circumstantial evidence of a tangible Obama effect in the Middle East. It could be catching. It would be fanciful to claim that Obamas bridge-building speech to the Muslim world in Cairo last week, attractive though it was, crucially influenced Lebanese voters. But the calmer, unconfrontational tone adopted by Washington on Middle East issues since George Bush trudged home to Texas appears to have struck a chord in a country that was teetering on the brink of sectarian civil war one year ago. Pre-election visits by Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, and Joe Biden, the US vice president, underscored the importance that Obama attached to the poll. Some resented these interventions as unwarranted interference. But many Lebanese, particularly the nearly 40 percent of the population that is Christian, seem to have approved of Washingtons increased engagement; and to have heard its implicit message that a vote for Hezbollah and its allies would be a backward step. Obama effect in Lebanon -------------------- Laura Rozen writes: As Iran votes, all quiet on the western front Official Washington is laying low and saying little as tectonic plates appear to be shifting in the run-up to Iran's presidential elections, to be held Friday. Despite dramatic images this week of the largest campaign demonstrations taking place in Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, including a human chain of as many as a million supporters for former Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi, the leading opposition candidate, the Obama administration has remained largely silent. The last thing officials want to do is say anything to jinx a process underway in Iran whose outcome is entirely outside of their control -- and yet may ease one of their most pressing challenges. A Mousavi win would not mean smooth sailing for Washington's efforts to engage Iran, analysts caution. It could deepen fissures in the Iranian leadership or even prompt a hard-line backlash or crackdown that could further paralyze U.S. efforts to engage Iran, they say. But the voting out of the incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would undoubtedly be seen in Washington and the West as a welcome sign that the Iranian public supports greater liberalization and less hostile attitudes toward the West. As Iran votes, all quiet on the western front | The Cable -------------------- Obama's speech in Cairo. Pre-election visits to middle eastern countries by Hillary Clinton. The "Obama Effect" -- influencing elections in the Middle East? -------------------- In Iran, Mousavi, the guy running against Ahmadinejad, has vowed to review laws that discriminate against women in Iran if he wins. He has stated that he would seek to disband the so called morality police force of Iran and drive toward gender equality. He's concerned about creating private, non-governmental TV networks and stopping the operation of the "Moral Police". In the televised debate between conservative incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Reformist Mir-Hossein Mousavi, Ahmadinejad decided to go after Mousavi's wife. He held up a picture of her and attacked her. She went on tv the next day asking that Ahmadinejad apologize. She has been active in her husband's campaign. Some have compared her to Michelle Obama. Ahmadinejad's base of support is among the older and rural communities, while Mousavi's is among the youth. On May 23, 2009, the Iranian government temporarily blocked access to Facebook across the country. Gulfnews.com reported that this move was a response to the use of Facebook by candidates running against the incumbent Ahmadinejad. PC World reported that Mousavi's Facebook page had more than 6,600 supporters. Access was restored by May 26, 2009. Iranian reformers, who favor improving Iran's ties with the West and loosening social restrictions at home, view Mousavi as a viable challenge the current conservative President Ahmadinejad; they believe that Ahmadinejad has lost popularity, even among conservatives, because of his perceived mishandling of the economy, his limiting of the civil liberties and his perilous steering of Iran's foreign policy; some Iranians believe that his uncompromising anti-US and anti-Israel rhetoric have increased Iran's isolation and damaged Iran's standing in the world. Mousavi condemned the killing of Jews in the Holocaust, a much different stance than Ahmadinejad.