Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The Khatami Factor (and Mossadeq)

Even though he's not a candidate, former president Muhammad Khatami is an issue in Iran's presidential election:
"Although Mohammad Khatami has decided against running for the Iranian presidency, it seems that incumbent Mahmud Ahmadinejad is still treating his predecessor as one of his rivals in the race.

"The president told Iran's state radio that Khatami’s 2005 visit to France was one of the saddest days of his life, because Khatami 'had to climb several flights of stairs' in the Elysee Palace to reach Jacque Chirac, the then French president.

"Ahmadinejad said he found it 'insulting' to Iranians.

"Khatami fought back, writing in the "Hayate Nou" daily, saying that the real insult was thrown during Ahmadinejad’s trip to Columbia University in New York in 2007, when Ahmadinejad was introduced to the audience as a 'cruel and petty dictator.'"

Khatami has also been at the center of a controversy involving a video appearing to show him making an anti-Azeri joke, a video Khatami says is a fake. 24% of Iranians are of Azeri ethnicity.

In the election, Khatami is a strong supporter of Mir Hussein Mousavi, who has called himself a "principlist reformist" as part of a broader strategy to attract voters from Ahmadinejad's principlist movement. Simply by keeping Khatami in the spotlight, however, Ahmadinejad makes that more difficult, since Khatami was simply a straight-out reformist.

UPDATE: Ahmadinejad has also called Khatami's suspension of nuclear enrichment "disgraceful."

UPDATE: As you can tell, I'm just now catching up after a couple of busy days. Muhammad Sahimi has this to say about Mousavi's recent televised address:
"Under huge public pressure and after scathing criticism from the reformist camp, the National Iranian Radio and Television (NIRTV) network allocated airtime to all the candidates on its major channels. The candidates used this platform to speak directly to the nation in a live broadcast.

"Mr. Mousavi’s speech was particularly impressive. In addition to harshly criticizing Mr. Ahmadinejad for his domestic and international misdeeds and the woeful state of the economy, Mr. Mousavi spoke like a true nationalist, bolstering his patriotic credentials and reinforcing what the late Mahdi Bazargan, the first Prime Minister after the 1979 Revolution and himself a major nationalist figure who had also served in the government of Dr. Mohammad Mosaddegh, had once said about Mr. Mousavi, 'He [Mr. Mousavi] is a devout Mosaddeghist,' an ultimate compliment to a former revolutionary. The main criticism about Mr. Mousavi’s nationally-broadcast speech was that he put too much emphasis on the significance of the first few years of the 1979 Revolution. But, then again, those were Mr. Mousavi’s formative years as a national politician."

I thought about bringing this up in my original post, but decided I was probably over-interpreting my articles. The above changes my mind. Muhammad Mossadeq was a nationalist prime minister from 1951-1953 who, after he nationalized the nation's oil industry, was deposed in a CIA-sponsored coup. Since then he has become one of Iran's great heroes. Ahmadinejad has at times sought to cast himself as a new Mossadeq with regards to Iran's nuclear program. Mousavi is also seeking the Mossadeq mantle. Ahmadinejad's attacks on Khatami, however, are designed to undermine claims that some sort of Khatami-Mousavi axis can stand up to the West.

(Crossposted to American Footprints)



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