The year 2009 has four important elections that together are nearly as potentially history changing as the election of President Obama has been since late 2008.
The leaders of two rival regional powers in the Middle East, Israel and Iran, are undergoing leadership changes at a time when their proxy Middle Eastern cold war waged since 2006 could suddenly flame very hot in a sirocco sunburst of Iranian nuclear reactor detonations this year.
On 12 June, Iran goes to the polls and if the Iranian democracy under the black slipper of the supreme council of Ayatollahs, headed by the Grand Ayatollah Khamenei should step off of it and not tell the Iranian people which candidates they are allowed to cast votes for, maybe, just maybe, a voice of moderation may return to Teheran.
Iran has its George Bush to kick around these days. Their populist President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may get grins from the redneck rural voters for his US-bashing, Zionist-baiting, saber rattling polemics, but he had driven the Iranian economy into the ground about as completely as the cracker sent back to Crawford Texas. Ahmadinejad’s popularity is about as deep in the stray doghouse gutter as Bush in America.
Until recently, it appeared that Ahmadinejad would face the return of the reformist ex-president Ayatollah Muhammad Khatami. If the Iranian constitution had not limited a citizen to two-consecutive terms in office, Ahmadinejad would not have replaced the popular Khatami. It seemed that Khatami’s star is on the rise again as an Ayatollah “Obama” of Change Iranians might believe in again.
Then came the news this week that Khatami suddenly backed out of the election, deferring to former Prime Minister Mir-hossein Mousavi. If I were to use a US-political metaphor here, it is almost like the Iranian Obama (Khatami) deferred to the Iranian Hillary Clinton (Mousavi) to ensure a powerful centrist showing of support at the poll and induce the blue collar Iranian labor unions to stray from the right and vote in reform. Iranians remember Mousavi fondly as the architect of their successful rise out of economic meltdown in the 1980s when, as the last serving Prime Minister, before the Iranian constitution abolished the post, he skillfully managed Iran during the Iran-Iraq War. He turned the economy around when at the time Iran was fighting invaders from Iraq and global economic sanctions for deposing the Shah. In both cases, the Iraqi invaders and sanctions were supported and pursued by the United States.
The ISNA news agency reported Khatami telling a group of reformists in Teheran today:
“The society has reached a juncture in which all political groups should try to change the political status quo.
“Change is the most urgent necessity and anyone who can enable this change should be supported.”
Khatami’s political logic is solid, however, by backing out, my “oracle” senses he has made the election far closer and given Ahmadinejad a winning chance. I wonder if the Supreme Ayatollah had had a private word with him to back down.
The reform strategy here is to win over a majority of Iranians on the solid footing of Mousavi’s past economic successes and his proven strength as a leader under crisis filled times. President Ahmadinejad on the other hand has been an economic bungler and his brinksmanship with Israel and America has taken him off theme as much as put his citizens under the imminent threat of war throughout his term in office. He has not fulfilled his domestic policy promises. In the end, that will be the cause of his fall from power on Election Day 12 June 2009, unless the supreme council of Ayatollahs, once again, gerrymanders the election results in his favor — if they dare. That could cause another Iranian Revolution, which I do sense, coming, but not so soon.
If Mousavi wins, an opportunity will be had to cool the fires of Jihad and war in the Middle East not seen since the Iranian revolution of Ayatollah Khomeini overthrew the Shah of Iran in 1978. We will then see the US diplomatic dream team Obama-Clinton do its statecraft magic, prevent a full-scale Iranian-Israeli war and at last reestablish diplomatic relations between the former “Great Satan” America and former “Axis of Evil” Iran.
They will negotiate with the Iranian Clinton (Mousavi) and the Iranian Obama (Khatami) team, as I do believe the latter will have some important supporting role in the new Iranian presidency.
Much in Iran’s political direction hinges on what happens in early April in Israel. Will Netanyahu form a pro-war coalition of right-wing parties or a more diplomatically oriented centrist right coalition of Tzipi Livni’s Kadima Party with Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Likud?
Between April and June, Israeli policy will either throw flaming oil on the problem with bellicosity or pave the way for Ahmadinejad’s descent into history’s rat hole of obscurity.
(19 March 2009)
UPDATE 01/23/10–And also the diplomatic breakthroughs coming in Predictions for 2010.