Iran is holding its breath ahead of the presidential elections, expected to be held on June 12th of this year. At that time, the two divergent inclinations within its leadership shall clash: Former President Mohammad Khatami, who represents the desire to reach out to the West, and incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who pushed Iran to adopt a radical policy and face international isolation.
The popular Khatami already served as president for eight years, in 1997-2005, and could not return for a consecutive third term in office before taken a break, in line with Iran’s constitution. This is how Ahmadinejad rose to power. However, this month Khatami announced that he will compete for the presidency with “all his strength” against his nemesis, after he was granted the approval of Iran’s spiritual leader, Ali Khamenei.
Should Khatami regain the presidency, we shall see a gradual change in Iran’s policy, and we shall be the first ones to feel it. This will not mark the end of the Islamic revolution, but its substance will be softer. Khatami rejects out of hand Ahmadinejad’s statements against the United States, Israel, and the Jews. He claims that these declarations caused great damage to Iran on the diplomatic and economic fronts.
Khatami’s approach stipulates that should Israel and the Palestinians reach an agreement, Iran will honor it. This policy is the direct opposite of the current one, which is meant to sabotage the prospects of an Israeli-Palestinian deal. This approach also includes an end to provocations of the West, although it does not necessarily mean an end to the nuclear project (a decision on that will only be taken by spiritual leader Khamenei.)
Under Khatami’s leadership, Iran will reduce its support for Hizbullah and Hamas. The support will be maintained, yet the sums of money involved (which have been criticized in Iran as it faces an economic crisis) will become smaller. Iran’s involvement in terrorism will also be revised.
The key element here is Barack Obama, who is expected to wait for the upcoming elections before unveiling his new Iran policy. Should Khatami be elected, a historic meeting is expected between the two.
In order to understand the strategy utilized by Khatami in an effort to regain power, one must become familiar with Iran. This country does not have a ruling ethnic majority, but rather, a coalition of minorities, with the Persian one being the largest; yet it is still a minority.
In recent months, Khatami has started to form alliances with the non-Persian minorities, which constitute 55%-60% of Iranians, including the Azeris, the Kurds, the Turks, the Sunni Arabs, etc. Should he win their support, on top of his great popularity among Persians, young Iranians, and women, he will win.
Khatami is using Iran’s secret genetic code, the minority problem, in order to take power. This is the point that the Iranians will always hide, because it’s as sensitive at the issue of ethnic groups in Iran or in Lebanon. This is Iran’s weak point, which Khatami seeks to turn into his own strong point. By utilizing the weak members of society, he intends to become the man in power.
Ahmadinejad has not yet announced his candidacy, and there are rumors that he is ill, yet it appears he will run in the elections. It will not be easy for both sides: Khatami will accuse Ahmadinejad of ruining the economic, the high inflation (25%-30%), skyrocketing prices, and the huge unemployment rate, while Ahmadinejad will charge that Khatami admires America.
The elections in Iran will be among the most important in its history and in the history of the Middle East, which is being dramatically and painfully changed by the Iranian shadow. Will the joint miracle of Presidents Obama and Khatami materialize? If so, this could have a significant effect on the map of threats faced by Israel.