THE ROVING EYE Another round of Ahmadineboom
By Pepe Escobar
The administration of United States President Barack Obama, the State
Department and Dennis Ross, their "special advisor" to the Gulf and Southwest
Asia, the Pentagon, the industrial-military complex, assorted Likudniks and
their enablers, the next Bibi-bombs-Iran government in Israel, everybody is
With the official announcement this week that former president Mohammad
Khatami, who served from 1997 to 2005, has dropped from the Iranian
presidential elections, it seems increasingly likely that Obama's alleged
"unclenched fist" Iran policy will have to deal with - yes - the "new Hitler"
(copyright The Israel lobby) Mahmud Ahmadinejad.
Khatami, former reformist icon, the man who launched the United
Nations-approved "dialogue of civilizations" in contrast to the paranoid
Huntingtonian "clash", had entered the race on February 9. Not only in Iran,
chancelleries all over the world were betting, some of them actually praying,
he might stand a very good chance of beating Ahmadinejad on June 12.
But then another reformist, Hossein Mousavi, a former prime minister from 1981
to 1989 during the Iran-Iraq war, presented his own candidacy only a few days
ago, on March 9. The version doing the rounds in Tehran is that Khatami decided
to back down and support Mousavi, so the reformist bloc wouldn't be split like
in 2005, when it lost the election.
It's crucial to remember that Mousavi was, in fact, the favorite reformist
candidate in the 1997 elections. Then he backed down. Khatami replaced him -
and won handsomely.
To say that the progressive press in Tehran is dejected with this bombshell
would be an understatement. The Sedaye-e Edalat daily reminds everyone how
Khatami had asked Mousavi in January if he wanted to run. Mousavi said nothing.
Khatami then entered the race - more or less against this will. As the paper
puts it, "What a surprise now to see Mousavi declare five weeks later that he
would enter the presidential battle!"
The Hammihan daily has already blasted Mousavi's "lack of morality" - which is
bound to alienate many a reformist. And to top it all, the reformist bloc
remains split, because former Majlis (parliament) president Mehdi Karoubi, a
moderate, is still in the race.
Mohammad Ali Abtahi, a close adviser to Khatami, although extolling his
decision "from a moral point of view" (considering the other two reformists
would not back down), recalls one of Khatami's first, triumphal campaign
rallies, in Shiraz, to stress how he was the only real winner among reformists.
It will be very, very hard for Mousavi and Karoubi to captivate all the
reformist masses, as they lack Khatami's unequivocal appeal, especially to
women and the youth.
Bridging the gulf
The road to victory now seems clear to Ahmadinejad. Will he capture only the
"fundamentalist" vote? It's not that simple. The ultra-conservatives control
both the presidency and the Majlis. But this has not assured coherent policies.
Both the executive and the legislative branches spent fortunes at random when
oil was at its peak, then were constrained to save; none of it brought
substantial improvement to ordinary Iranians' lives.
The performance of some of Ahmadinejad's ministers - old Pasdaran (Iranian
Revolutionary Guards Corps) pals actually - has been appalling. He seriously
annoyed the elders who run the show behind the shadows - ie powerful ayatollahs
in Qom - because he never consulted them on some key policies. But he felt he
did not need them. He spends a lot of time touring the provinces - he's just
received a raucous welcome in Iranian Kurdistan - where he remains extremely
popular and in touch with the masses.
This does not mean that Ahmadinejad eschews clever power play. He has just
launched a super charm offensive to (re)captivate the ayatollahs in Qom and to
throw off balance a man who could actually win an election against him, the
47-year-old conservative, former national police chief and current mayor of
Tehran, Mohammed Ghalibaf.
Ghalibaf is no extreme right-winger - on the contrary, his current slogan is
"restoring tranquility". What the Ahmadinejad camp is betting on is to offer
him enough carrots so he won't run now - and will try his chances only in 2013.
The word in Tehran is that an Ahmadinejad second term would embody a solid
alliance of all the right wing and the ultra-conservative and fundamentalist
This Persian chessboard is just in its initial moves. Still, it does look bleak
for reformists. Fists - in Washington and Tehran - may eventually unclench. But
Hillary Clinton's State Department is not making things easier. The State
Department could not even name the Persian Gulf correctly when Dennis Ross - a
crypto-Zionist who by the way knows zilch about Southwest Asia - was appointed
"Special Advisor to the Secretary of State for The Gulf and Southwest Asia".
What Gulf? Mexico? Aqaba? Aden? Tonkin? The name is Persian Gulf - since at
least 330 BC, when the Greeks coined it. And the "new Hitler" seems likely to
keep presiding over the most powerful country that borders it in Southwest
Asia. Bibi Netanyahu in Israel and Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff
Lieutenant-General Gabi Ashkenazi, who was in Washington this week, are already
polishing their bombs.