January 3, 2005


Iran's presidential dark horse (Safa Haeri, 1/03/05, Asia Times)

Of the five candidates presented officially, three are former high-ranking officers of the mullahs' Praetorian Guards - Mohsen Rezai, the former commander-in-chief of the Army of the Guards of the Islamic Revolution, or the Revolutionary Guards, who is the secretary of the Expediency Council; Ali Larijani, former head of the conservative-controlled Voice and Visage (Radio and Television), now the supreme leader's personal representative at the Supreme Council on National Security; and Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nezhad, the mayor of Tehran, who did not attend the meeting.

The two other contenders are Dr Ali Akbar Velayati, a former foreign affairs minister, and Ahmad Tavakkoli, a former labor minister who is a member of the present conservative-controlled majlis (parliament). [...]

"Few contenders, whether conservative or reformers, would dare to stand against a heavyweight such as Hashemi Rafsanjani," noted Amir Mohebbian, the editor and senior commentator of the Resalat newspaper, a pro-conservative daily close to the bazaar oligarchy. [...]

"It is quite possible that the more critical Iran's international situation grows in the coming months, the more moderate Iran's next president is likely to be ... for instance, despite extensive opposition to Rafsanjani's candidature, he might, in the final weeks before the election, be found the appropriate person for the job," commented Amir Nourbakhsh, a director of the firm Atieh Bahar Consulting of Tehran.

This is also the view of other analysts, who speculate that the maverick chairman of the Expediency Council, Rezai, considered as a "master manipulator", could well be behind the support Khamenei provided to the Iranian diplomats who in Vienna negotiated the resolution of the international nuclear watchdog allowing Iran to escape possible economic sanctions from the United Nations Security Council, as pressed and demanded by Washington, this in connection with Iran's nuclear program, which Washington believes is being used to develop nuclear weapons.

"Without the explicit backing of the leader and sincere understanding and goodwill from our European partners, namely Britain, France and Germany, we would hit the wall," a senior Iranian negotiator on Iran's nuclear-program issue told Asia Times Online on condition of anonymity, adding that both Rafsanjani and Rohani, who is also the supervisor of the nuclear question, played a "major role" in persuading Khamenei to give his green light to the diplomats to negotiate the deal in terms of which Iran suspended its uranium-enrichment program.

"If Iran's next president is elected from among forces politically close to the mindset of those who negotiated the recent agreement on Iran's nuclear program, it would be possible to expect a moderate conservative administration that would gradually move towards detente with the West," Nourbakhsh pointed out, naming Rohani as one of the men who symbolizes with this faction. [...]

"If the Iranian state were to seek to appoint its next president based on national interests, criteria to preserve the regime and the president's skill to reconcile political factions, it would certainly fail to do so, at least under the current circumstances. The reason is simple: Iran's national interests are contrary to incentives to preserve the regime of the Islamic Republic," pointed out Nourbakhsh, explaining that seen from experience, "it is almost impossible for the Iranian state today to find a presidential candidate who could produce a high turnout [source of domestic legitimacy], be able to gain the trust of the international community [external legitimacy] and capable of accommodating the interests of major political groups [national reconciliation]".

The realization that the regime can't serve the nation's interests is its end.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 3, 2005 1:42 PM
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