June 10, 2009


Iran's elections a soft-power boon (Kaveh L Afrasiabi, 6/10/09, Asia Times)

Iran's colorful and highly contentious presidential election can be expected to prove a major boon for the country's foreign policy, no matter who is voted into office when those among the 46 million eligible voters go to the polls on Friday.

Described by the international media as "extraordinarily open" and "highly competitive", the election process has been internally polarizing and has generated excess public interest that will likely continue once the sound and fury of election euphoria is over. Yet, the net impact with respect to Iran's foreign priorities is bound to be positive.

This is because the polls will give the incoming regime international respectability and legitimacy following a dynamic electoral race that has boiled down to four main candidates. [...]

[T]he presidential race has afforded the critics of Ahmadinejad the unique opportunity to blame him for "adventurism, extremism, impressionism and sloganism", to paraphrase Mousavi.

Karroubi has questioned Ahmadinejad's purported denial of the Holocaust by arguing that "this is not an issue for Iran", while Rezai has offered a detailed, step-by-step plan for detente with the West.

Such open debates on all aspects of Iran's domestic and foreign policies, using, for the first time, the all-too-important medium of television, reflect a maturing Islamic Republic that is in the throes of a qualitative expansion of its public sphere. This political evolution is on full display before the world community.

The ultimate test of the legitimacy of the elections arrives on Friday when an estimated 60% of the electorate goes to the polls. The two reformist candidates have filed objections over the number of ballots printed - they say there are too many. This issue is expected to be resolved, though, and the next president should be able to convince the world that he has a national mandate, which includes continuing with the country's nuclear program and negotiating with other countries.

...the UR is the big beneficiary politically. If Ahmedinejad loses, the President has an opportunity for a major new opening with Iran. If Ahmedinejad wins, the President the Presiodent has the green light for an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities, which would be a welcome distraction from his domestic difficulties and a chance to look like a tough leader instead of a milquetoast.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 10, 2009 5:57 AM
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