Obama must now vote for a like-minded new president for Iran
By: Ahmad Vahdat-Khah
The 2nd of Khordad (third month in Persian calendar) in 1997 saw a landslide victory for the mild mannered cleric Mohammad Khatami in Iran’s presidential election and ushered in a new era in the life of the Islamic Republic, marked with a united, and peaceful call by the Iranian people for deep social and political reforms.
The failure of Khatami and his administrations to deliver these overdue demands after two terms in office, caused chiefly by the lack of power and desire on the part of a dithering president on the one hand, and the despotic nature of the unelected rulers of the country on the other, led to the emergence of the populist Ahmadinejad in 2005, who has since made matters worse by waging an outdated and reactionary outward campaign against the U.S. and Israel and stifling the democratic forces at home.
The polarization of the Iranian society has now reached a stage where even the closest allies of Ahmadinejad are openly calling for his removal from the list of the conservative candidates in the next presidential election in May 2009 and the reformist camp begging Khatami to nominate himself again to save Iran from collapsing into anarchy and destruction.
The colossal and record oil revenues generated by Iran during Ahmadinejad’s presidency have done little to ease the country’s dire economic conditions due to erratic and day to day policies by the hardliners and a corrupt and mafia-type run financial system, and according to the Ministry of Labor some 11 million Iranians are now officially listed as living under the poverty line.
The four U.N sanctions on Iran for its defiance to stop its sensitive nuclear program in the last three years have brought added misery and uncertainties to daily lives of the Iranians and there is even talk of more and harsher economic sanctions to come if President Obama’s rapprochement with Tehran fails.
While political apathy and hopelessness for a better future seem to be the order of the day among many Iranians of all ages and classes, it would be foolish to assume that this apparently indifference will continue for long and allow their failed leaders of both camps to write the history of the nation to their detrimental liking.
Iranians are a nation of unbelievable muted tolerance towards repression and then sudden, and angry burst of their feelings into open in alternate rounds. To ignore this national psyche one would miscalculate the course of events to come among this ancient nation who has survived many similar historic brushes with annihilation.
Voting for a new president or saving Iran?
Twelve years after their latest outburst for freedom and justice, the Iranians are being asked again to take part in yet another election in next spring, in which the choice is hardly about choosing a president and more about how to deter the threats of a possible foreign military attack, or as the reformists are warning, a collapse into social disintegration.
In the 2nd of Khordad 1997 the Iranian people demonstrated their collective sense of patriotism and moderation by choosing a man who spoke their language of reform and progress within a type of democracy that was not in conflict with the progressive teachings of their religion that has always acted as another pillar of their national identity.
The apparent absence of a true leader or an organized movement to rally the Iranians again for a national resurrection at the juncture of the next forthcoming presidential election does not mean that the desires for democracy, human rights, equality and peaceful coexistence with its neighbors and beyond are not high on the agenda of the nation.
Only a candidate fighting for these causes can have a true mandate from the Iranian people.
President Obama and his advisers on Iran would do the Iranian people a great favor by recognizing these aspirations and move away from the policy of solely engaging with the rulers of the country and instead throw their open support behind an eligible nominee in Iran’s next presidential election who stands for these ideals, if they want their Iran new policy to succeed.
The forward looking Iranian people, especially its youths, as the ultimate owners of this ancient land, deserve to be included in any future dialogue between the US and Iran as their eventual freedom and prosperity will play a crucial role in bringing peace and stability to the Middle East and act as major deterrent to the ills of fundamentalism.
The writer is an Iranian journalist based in London and has previously contributed to the Independent, Sunday Times, UPI, VOA and the BBC.