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Excitement Builds On Eve of Iran’s Election

June 11, 2009

The notion of Iran as an Isalmofascist, totalitarian state bent on confrontation with the western world is not only harmful–to the Iranian people, the American people and the future of the middle east–but incorrect. Given the unique history of Iran, it is understandable that many are leery of its intentions: the taking of American hostages during the revolution and the ousting of the Shah, its support of Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Palestinian territories, its capacity for nuclear technology, the existence of a “Supreme Leader” that acts as the chief religious figure surpassing the country’s President in power…to Americans this is a difficult country to understand. And following the harsh rhetoric of the Bush administration directed to Iran, there is little wonder that Americans view Iran as an enemy. This perspective, however, ignores the substantial and growing moderate elements in Iran that view the west favorably. It is this group, the ideological offspring of Mohammad Khatami, the scholar, cleric and former President of Iran, that offers hope for a liberalization of Iranian domestic and foreign policy. They also present a potential solution to the unnecessary brinksmanship between the US and Iran that contributes to the violence and instability in the region. Khatami, a friend and colleague of the challenger to current Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, remains an influential figure in the country. According to published reports, Khatami:

attracted global attention during his first election to the presidency in 1997 when, as “a little known cleric, he captured almost 70% of the vote.” Khatami had run on a platform of liberalization and reform. During his two terms as president, Khatami advocated freedom of expression, tolerance and civil society, constructive diplomatic relations with other states including those in the European Union and Asia, and an economic policy that supported a free market and foreign investment.

Roger Cohen at the New York Times explores the growing pro-Mousavi movement which promises a return to the more open and secular society initiated by Khatami:

Iran, its internal fissures exposed as never before, is teetering again on the brink of change. For months now, I’ve been urging another look at Iran, beyond dangerous demonization of it as a totalitarian state. Seldom has the country looked less like one than in these giddy June days.
I wandered in a sea of green ribbons, hats, banners and bandannas to a rally at which Ahmadinejad was mocked as “a midget” and Moussavi’s wife, Zahra Rahnavard, sporting a floral hijab that taunted grey-black officialdom, warned the president that: “If there is vote rigging, Iran will rise up.”
A Moussavi kite hovered; a shout went up that “It’s even written in the sky.” I don’t know about that, but something is stirring again in the Islamic Republic, a nation attached to both words in its self-description.

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