Sunday, February 8, 2009

Khatami Joins the Race

According to the AP (via the Jerusalem Post), former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami has decided to challenge Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for the country's top political post in Iran's national election this coming June. In 2005, Ahmadinejad had run on a platform "promising to bring oil revenues to every Iranian family, tackle unemployment and improve living standards," but he has failed on every count. Instead, its economy is in serious distress, and Iran has become the subject of severe global scrutiny due to its nuclear program.

Khatami, if elected, could help relax some of the global pressure on Iran, since he is known as a reformist. The Financial Times noted that

While [Khatami and Ahmadinejad] are equally attached to the country’s nuclear programme, which Tehran says is for peaceful purposes, [the reformists] insist they could address western concerns over it more successfully.

But policy makers and political commentators should not be duped. Iran's president doesn't control the nuclear program; its Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, does. So, no matter the result of the upcoming presidential election, neither candidate is in control of the nuclear program's fate. It will, if recent history is any guide, continue on its course, unless the West ratchets up pressure and sanctions. Only then would Khamenei -- not Khatami or Ahmadinejad -- have to reconsider.

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