No, the title is not a typo. Yes, I’m an educated student and yes, I stand by the title of this post.
It’s not difficult to name the horrors Ahmadinijad has done and the horrors he wants to commit (i.e. wipe Israel off the map). He runs an oppressive regime and opponents are frequently murdered, harassed or threatened. Many western leaders have recognized the threat Iran poses and many media outlets are not shy to announce the fear of Iran. But would removing Ahmadinijad make any difference?
Iran and the West have a long complicated history. Under the Shah, Iran had good ties with the West and even attempted to modernize the nation. But after the follow-out of American support in the mid 70s, Iran became more and more aggressive until the 1979 regime change which changed the Iranian regime’s policies. Following the revolution came a new interpretation in Shiite jurisprudence. This new interpretation believed there was a prophet that will come to the aid of all Shiites worldwide and this form of Shiism dominated the Iranian belief system. This idea of the saviour was advocated by Khomeini who argued for the concept of “Wali al-Faqih” (supreme leader) – a person who would be in charge of Shiite affairs until this savior arrives. And of course, he claimed that he was the appropriate person to act as the supreme leader. This interpretation was imposed on the clerical elite in Iran and thus, society at large.
Another important change in the Iranian regime was the constitutional manipulation. After 1979, Iran was called “The Islamic Republic,” which would supposedly introduce republican principles into the regime and but also put the political role of the Supreme Leader as the highest regime official of the regime. This was done to ensure that the final arbitrator in foreign policy affairs was a group of clerks loyal to Khomeini.
These changes are still in effect today – Iran can have elections after elections but as long as the supreme leader remains to be Ali Khamenei, the Iranian president will have no real effect on Iranian foreign policy. So even if Mousavi had won, it would not have made a difference.
So could Ahmadinijad be good for the West? He can decide to “wipe Israel off the map” but these decisions would only be put in effect by the Supreme Leader. And so, if we look at Mousavi’s record, perhaps he is good for the West.
Mousavi was favored to win by the West because he presented a moderate voice in Iranian public. Many analysts praised his handling of the Iranian economy, his leadership during the Iran-Iraq war which killed over a million people on both sides and his efforts to end Iran’s international isolation.
But as prime minister in the 1980s, Mousavi was a social conservative, and he backed the ideals of the 1979 Islamic revolution. Mir Hossein Mousavi’s hard-line past and spotless revolutionary credentials appeal to conservatives. And just two months ago, he announced Iran would continue advancing her nuclear program. The advancement of this nuclear program would have severe implications in the Middle East. Iran funds Syrian-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon, an arrangement worth keeping for Syria, which is then able to maintain the Lebanese border as an active military front against Israel. The funding that Iran provides lands into the pockets of Hezbollah and Hamas and if Iran had a nuclear weapons program, perhaps those weapons would also be transferred to terrorists.
When Mousavi introduced his cabinet in 1985, he boasted that his interior minister, Ali Akbar Mohtashami, was a religious conservative who’d built his reputation while building Hezbollah, the “Party of God,” in Lebanon. Mousavi’s parliamentary followers supported continuing terrorist operations in Lebanon. Mousavi neither liked nor trusted Americans. He led Iran’s boycott of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics to protest U.S. foreign policy from Central American to the Middle East.
Mousavi’s past has been overlooked during the previous elections. The west preferred him to win and his supporters called him a moderate choice. If Mousavi is considered moderate, it is only when compared to Ahmadinijad.
So could Ahmadinijad be good for the West? If Mousavi was in “power,” perhaps the west would attempt to negotiate with Iran. As we have learned, negotiations with Iran are useless. Obama can extend the “olive branch” as much as he wants, but until he realizes Iran has no intention of ever cooperating with the US or even maintaining friendly relations with the US, his kind words will only do harm. As long as Ahmadinijad is in power, we can no longer pretend Iran is not a threat. It might even be a blessing in disguise – Ahmadinijad is up front about his cruel policies and strong actions against them need not be hidden. The west will receive less opposition when fighting a “Holocaust-denier” than if fighting a so-called moderate.
At the end of the day, Ahmadinijad and Mousavi both cannot change the fate of Iran – only the Supreme Leader can. And we have a unique opportunity to fight this threat – since it is so clearly right in front of us.