An Obama victory could bolster reformers in Iran

If Senator McCain wins the US election, the strained relationship with Iran is likely to continue in its current deadlock. However an Obama victory could have a profound effect on Iran's policy and politics.

  • Firstly, there are hints that Iran may be preparing to make a significant concession in response to Obama's professed willingness to engage with enemies. This is likely to be an offer to suspend work on the nuclear programme in return for a suspension of sanctions; such a "suspend-for-suspend" arrangement would go well beyond the current attempts to persuade Iran to agree on a "freeze-for-freeze" under which neither sanctions or uranium enrichment will be increased, but frozen at their current levels.
  • Secondly, an Obama victory would bolster reformists in Iran in the run up to the Iranian presidential election on 12 June 2009. One key question is whether the popular reformist and former president, Mohammad Khatami, will run. He probably has the best chance of defeating the incumbent conservative, President Ahmadinejad, and is said to be more likely to run if he knows he will be dealing with an US administration led by Senator Obama. Another potential reformist presidential candidate, Mehdi Karroubi, has said the Iranian people are hoping for an Obama victory. (More analysis on Iranian presidential candidates here.)
On the subject of Iran, here is an interesting comment by dissident Iranian blogger, Omid Memarian, interviewed by Time magazine:
"Surprisingly, many Iranians differentiate between U.S. politics and American people or culture. People think that their government’s animosity toward America has done more harm than good. I’ve grown up with two myths about the United States: Ayatollah Khomeini’s depiction of the U.S. as “Great Satan” on one hand, and the idea of the American dream on the other... Many Iranians are obsessed with Barack Obama. If he goes to Iran, I’m sure he could fill Tehran’s Azadi Stadium, which has a capacity of 100,000. To a large extent this is because of the nature of Obama’s message about change and hope. Iranian people truly want to change their situation, get rid of decades of marginalization and restore their reputation in the world. They feel connected to his message of change. They are tired of living under the threat of economic sanctions and military attacks. Obama’s remark about initiating a dialogue with Iran translated for many Iranians into hopes of normalizing the relationship between the countries and Iran rejoining the international community. For many Iranian women struggling for women’s rights, Hillary is incredibly inspiring. Senator McCain, on the other hand, they see as just as a third term of President Bush."
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