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From Rome with Love

We've been in Italy for a few weeks, it's our second home. I'm an Italianist, after all, having written several books on fascism, on the aftermath of the Great War, on Naples, and on contemporary Italy. Barbara and I met in Rome, were married in the old Spanish synagogue beneath the huge synagogue on the banks of the Tiber, and lived in Rome for many years. I taught at the University of Rome and was Rome correspondent for The New Republic. So we come here a lot. This time there was a special reason: our son Gabriel, a Marine veteran of the Iraq war, graduate of Stanford Law School and currently a clerk at the D.C. Circuit Appeals Court, married the lovely and talented Kelli, an architect. The ceremony was in Montepulciano, in southern Tuscany.

Roma spelled backwards is "amor," after all, and there's a reason why I haven't posted anything. With so much to celebrate and so many friends to see, I haven't felt much like working. However, time's up, the euros are gone, so...here. we. go.


Iranololgists often fall prey to the conceit that the ayatollahs are so infernally clever that whatever happens must be the result of their calculations and schemes. It is not so -- anyone looking at the fierce internal battles raging at the highest levels of the regime can easily see that there is no possibility of any of them, even the supreme leader, successfully manipulating all those factors -- but most of the commentary has taken the election of Rouhani as a triumph of Khamenei's maneuvers Not so. Khamenei wanted either Jalili or Velayati, and he was shocked at both Rouhani's popularity and the poor performances from his favorites. Indeed, the "official" numbers have been modified, adding a couple of million votes to Jalili's total, and a bit over a million to Velayati's.

Moreover, the actual total vote was significantly lower than in 2009. As I promised beforehand, Khamenei was not prepared to risk street demonstrations, and thus there was no effort to concoct a runoff. Rouhani won a majority -- even with the fiddling around to help Jalili and Velayati -- and he was proclaimed the winner. But it wasn't easy. It took the regime 15-16 hours to make its announcement; four years ago they came out with their big lies in favor of Ahmadinejad within 5 hours.

Now what?