Today in Iran former reform President Mohammad Khatami announced he will run again against Mahmoud Ahamadinejad in June. This is a great development, and it signals a significant shift in the convoluted machine that is Iranian Politics. In short, Khatami would not be running if the Supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and the Supreme Council did not want him to do so; they might be looking for a change too.
Mohammad Khatami, generally regarded as a reform President, held office from August of 1997 to August of 2005. Mahmoud Ahamadinejad was elected in June of 2005 and assumed office in August of that year. Ahamadnejad exemplified the hard-right shift in Iran which accompanied the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. Many may not remember, but when the US invaded Iraq, the "Reform" movement within Iran lost steam. The Supreme Council removed many reform candidates from the elections and the Iranian Parliament (The Majlis) took a hard turn to the right. In retrospect, this was quite understandable.
In the early days after 9/11, Iran supplied much useful information and support for US action against Afghanistan lead by the Taliban. The Taliban and the Islamic Republic of Iran were mortal enemies. In the late 90's there was an Iranian diplomatic mission to Afghanistan that was slaughtered while they slept; an action that almost led to war. In 2002, when Bush declared Iran part of an "Axis of Evil" in his State of the Union Address things began to unravel. Any "Reformist," "Detente" position became suspect and we saw Khatami's government replaced by Ahamadinejad in 05.
Well now, the pendulum is swinging back. Khatami announced his candidacy and this is a significant event. As a political veteran and a man who is now 65, Khatami knows that if the Supreme Council did not want him anywhere near power they would have told him not to run. I assure you he asked. He's too old and too experienced to waste his time. The fact that he is now running shows the Supreme Council wants to shift focus and is ready to change course. If the election in June validates that sentiment; they will not stop it.
On our end of things, the election of Khatami will open up the perfect opportunity to begin meetings followed by formal negotiations. The US media has done a stellar job of portraying Ahamadinejad as evil incarnate, and movement away from him will give the Obama Administration an excellent opportunity to begin a dialogue. A new Iranian Administration engaging with a new US administration to work toward the resolution of regional issues, and reduction of regional tensions. I fully realize that the Supreme Council holds the bulk of power in Iran, but the US media portrayal has left the impression that this sole bogeyman, badguy, Hitler-figure, Ahamadinejad, is the source of all trouble. The chance for reversal here is huge. Something to watch and look forward to.
UPDATE: I've been posting here since last May, and this is my first time on the REC LIST. I very much appreciate the honor, makes it easier to go to work on a Monday. Thanks.