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memri
February 18, 2009 No.
2240

Al-Arabiya TV Director in 'Al-Sharq Al-Awsat' on Upcoming Iranian Presidential Election: Don't Wish for a Khatami Victory

Last week, former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami announced that he would run in Iran's presidential election, which is to be held June 2009. In response, Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed, director of Al-Arabiya TV and former editor of the London daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, wrote an article for the paper titled "Don't Wish For A Khatami Victor.," In it, he called reformists like Khatami "a wingless dove," and said that if "an agreement is to be reached [with Iran], it must be reached with the true people in power."

The following is the article, as it appeared in the paper's English edition:[1]

Although Khatami Is "A Moderate Peace-Loving Iranian Politician," Betting On Him Is Wrong – "Because of the Iranian Regime"

"A feeling of enthusiasm and joyful concern comes with the announcement of former Iranian President Mohamed Khatami's intention of running in the forthcoming presidential elections.

"After a long line of confrontational leaders, Khatami is perceived by many as an example of a moderate peace-loving Iranian politician. However, despite this being a correct assessment, betting on Khatami in itself is wrong – not because of the reformative leader himself, but rather because of the Iranian regime.

"Iran's political infrastructure is designed in a way that does not entitle an elected president like Khatami – who is affiliated with a large, popular, political trend, but is weak authoritatively – to run Iran's higher political policy in a way he deems appropriate. Evidence of this was seen in Khatami's last presidential term, which was riddled with many setbacks to the point of humiliation by extremist parties within the regime. Things got bad to the degree that newspapers and magazines affiliated with Khatami were forced to close down, while candidates from his party were banned from participation, and his employees harassed until he departed the presidency, achieving nothing of what he promised his voters."

"Ahmadinejad Remaining In Power Is Better Than Waiting For a President Like Khatami"

"However, when it comes to a character like current Iranian president Ahmadinejad: He indeed belongs to the ruling regime, and [to] the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, which today enjoys more power and influence than [at] any other time in history, interfering in both domestic and foreign affairs. Moreover, he is closer [than Khatami] to the leader who yields the most power in Iran – supreme religious leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Therefore, Ahmadinejad remaining in power is better than waiting for a president like Khatami.

"The upcoming Iranian elections are not genuine, but are designed in line with the needs of the Iranian fundamentalist regime, which denies access to those outside of it. This regime has reached [such] a level of fanaticism that it blocked the candidacy of two thousand Islamists from running for parliament because they were perceived as reformers like Khatami. Moreover, the elections were so restrictive that candidates were not allowed to debate or appear in television commercials."

Reformists Like Khatami Are "A Wingless Dove" – If There Is To Be An Agreement With Iran, "It Must Be Reached With the True People in Power"

"We appreciate the attitudes and opinions of reformists, like Khatami, and their liberal spirit that allows for realistic communication on all issues. This includes the difficult issues such as their nuclear program, their foreign presence, and the strained diplomatic relations. And so even during [times of] dispute, we can undoubtedly coexist with a regime that is headed by Khatami, which is not the case with previous hard-liners.

"A lack of trust is the main problem between the us and the Iranians. They say that their development of nuclear energy will be used on peaceful grounds – whereas all indications confirm that it will be used for military purposes. Looking at what Iran is doing politically and military in our region makes for a grim picture.

"The reformative Islamists [like Khatami] are the best option. However it will not satisfy us much even if they do attain power at the forthcoming spring elections, because they are a wingless dove. Whether or not an agreement is to be reached, it must be reached with the true people in power."


Endnote:

[1] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), February 10, 2009. The text has been lightly edited for clarity.