June 10, 2005


US looms large in Iran's elections (Kaveh Afrasiabi, 6/11/05, Asia Times)

While there is no official poll to indicate the front runners, one can safely assume that the liberal candidate Mostafa Moin and the centrist Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani are ahead of the pack - of eight candidates sanctioned following screening by the Guardians Council of a crowded field of more than 1,000. Both these candidates have prioritized the issue of future relations with the US, hoping to galvanize young voters interested in the normalization of relations with the Western superpower nowadays considered Iran's "new neighbor" in control of Iraq and Afghanistan.

In his first press interview after formally announcing his candidacy, Rafsanjani, a former president and current head of the Expediency Council, offered an olive branch toward the US and stated his desire to improve the climate between the two countries. He has said that if the US released Iran's frozen assets in the US, he would be ready for dialogue. Moin, on the other, hand has been even more blunt in stating his desire to end the diplomatic estrangement of the past quarter of century, irrespective of the stern opposition by the hardline candidates still beating the drum of anti-Americanism for their mass of constituency.

But the hardline, often referred to as the right wing, candidates are not united on this particular issue. With their disunity serving as a major handicap diminishing their individual chances, this faction suffers from a degree of disjunction between a militant anti-Americanism and the system-maintenance prerogative of a modus vivendi with the US power casting a large shadow on Iran's national security. One of those candidates, Ali Larijani, the former head of the state-owned, conservative-controlled Radio and Television Organization, is considered a pragmatic realist who favors dialogue with the US.

No matter what the outcome of the elections - and Rafsanjani may well turn out the winner as expected by most Iran watchers - the mere fact that the old taboo has been broken and the candidates freely ignore the official line of not talking about the US is welcome news portending the breaking of significant ice in the tumultuous US-Iran relations since 1979.

Later this month, US and Iranian diplomats will sit around the same table in Luxembourg discussing Iraq's reconstruction. Already, a quid pro quo for Iran's extension of its freeze on nuclear fuel activities, Washington has dropped its opposition to Iran's accession to the World Trade Organization. And in various policy circles in the US, one can discern a greater willingness than in the past to give credit to Iran for the strides it has taken in Afghanistan, Iraq, against narcotics traffic, etc.

If it's taken folks this long to figure out that our relationship with India is a key to the 21st century, imagine how long it will take them to figure out that Iran is an ally?

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 10, 2005 9:21 AM

A long, long time. It may even have to wait until Iran is an ally. Calling Rafsanjani, one of the main nuclear saber rattlers, a centrist is either ludicrous, or an alarming indication of where the other candidates are. As the Islamic Republic is currently structured, it cannot be an ally. It would only take one small structural tweak to make it a likely ally, but just because that tweak is small does not mean that it is either easy or, short of armed rebellion, likely.

Posted by: David Cohen at June 10, 2005 9:33 AM

The shah always falls.

Posted by: oj at June 10, 2005 9:36 AM

The key is obviously the burgeoning youth population. If they all have to head over to Iraq for jobs in the next few years, it will be impossible to control.

I think all those kids born from the Iranian religious revolution are going to be a great asset -- as kids always are.

Posted by: Randall Voth at June 10, 2005 10:08 AM

the iranian voters should write in george w bush for president. and conduct a separate vote count.

Posted by: cjm at June 10, 2005 12:57 PM