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Iran’s Elections: Hindenburg Beats Hitler

One can be forgiven for not noticing, in light of the earth-shattering revelations in Scott McClellan's book, that the Iranian Parliament, the Majlis, elected a new speaker this week, Ali Larijani, by a resounding 232 to 31 margin. Before joining … Read More

By / May 30, 2008

One can be forgiven for not noticing, in light of the earth-shattering revelations in Scott McClellan's book, that the Iranian Parliament, the Majlis, elected a new speaker this week, Ali Larijani, by a resounding 232 to 31 margin. Before joining the Majlis in March, Larijani had been one of two personal appointees of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to the Supreme National Security Council, in which capacity he was Iran's chief international representative on nuclear technology policy. Before that, he was a candidate in the presidential election of 2005, and has been one of the chief rivals to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for the favor of Khamenei, for control of the conservative political coalition, and for power in Iran.

Now, there's no reason to lionize Larijani pre-emptively. His history suggests that he is far less reformist than say, Muhammad Khatami, whose presidency was a pretty big disappointment. But he is the leader of the pragmatist wing of the conservative coalition and not a raving loon like Ahmadinejad, so his elevation to the speakership of the Majlis is a fairly profound signal that Khamenei is displeased with Iran's strategic drift. Which means conditions exist for a reorientation of Iranian policy (especially if Larijani defeats Ahmadinejad in the upcoming elections in 2009).

What does all this mean for Americans? Firstly, that the next president will likely have an opportunity for diplomacy with Iran that hasn't existed since 2003, and if he (or she) squanders that opportunity without so much as trying to put a halt to Iranian nuclearization through negotiations, we'll all be that much less safe as a result. So it's probably worthwhile thinking about which presidential candidates have made a steadfast promise to make you less safe when and if you vote this November.

Secondly and relatedly, it's probably time for those people supporting the propagandistic charade that "talking to Iran" = "talking to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Holocaust denier" to feel a little agenbite of shame. Ahmadinejad's job was a combination of secretarial and ambassadorial duties, in which he could only exercise power at the discretion of Khamenei. Since Khamenei regards Ahmadinejad as a low-class dolt, Ahmadinejad has not exercised power on any matter of significance, let alone conducting Iranian foreign policy.

Thirdly and most importantly, willful mistranslations of a powerless figurehead aside, Khamenei and the Majlis' gelding of Ahmadinejad and elevation of Larijani is yet more evidence that the Iranian government acts rationally to satisfy its preferences, the most important of which is self-preservation. Which is a good thing to keep in mind when liars and hallucinators claim that Iran is a greater threat to US security than the Soviet Union was, because of some unique death-seeking quality of Iran's governing ideology. Also worth keeping in mind is that the fantasist school of Iran policy used to be the gang that denounced Reagan as a Chamberlainian surrender-monkey for talking to Mikhail "Hitler" Gorbachev.

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