After June 14, Iran could become more isolated from the West than ever.
One day soon, American lawmakers might actually be wistful for the days when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was in power. With Iran’s presidential election looming on June 14, it appears Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has a new favorite: Saeed Jalili, Iran’s chief security official and nuclear negotiator. If elected, Jalili, 47, is expected to be “the perfect follower of Khamenei,” an analyst in Iran told The New York Times. An avowed hardliner, Jalili once said the goal of Iran was to “uproot capitalism, Zionism, and Communism, and promote the discourse of pure Islam in the world.”
How did Jalili become the frontrunner in the upcoming election?
Probably because the conservative Guardian Council – six of whose members were handpicked by Khamenei – wanted it that way. The council whittled a slate of thousands of potential candidates down to eight, and ruled two of the most viable candidates unfit to run: Ahmadinejad’s top aideEsfandiar Rahim Mashaie and former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Criticizing the council’s moves, Prof. Ali Ansari, director of the Institute for Iranian Studies at the University of St. Andrews, laments the state of Iran’s electoral process:
Indeed the unpredictability of the Iranian political system is not a reflection of its inherent ‘democracy’, but of the absence of the rule of law and the growing identification of power in the person of Khamenei. Both the Guardian Council’s “rulings” (which it should be stressed are neither published nor explained) and the fact they can be overturned on the whims of the Supreme Leader, are indicative of this harsh reality.
What we are left with is a tightly controlled “election” with a dry and uninteresting field.
Iranians and U.S. officials seeking reform in Iran, are similarly dissatisfied with the council’s choosing Jalili. Both Mashaie and Rafsanjani have advocated for better relations with the West. Mashaie, despite his ties to Ahmadinejad, has publicly said that he sees no enmity between Iran and the United States or Israel. He also sought to attract investment from the millions of Iranians overseas, something that, according to The Washington Post, conservative clerics and politicians have opposed.
As for Rafsanjani, who served two terms as president, his supporters hoped that he would have enacted modest reforms without raising Khamenei’s ire. But Rafsanjani’s tepid support of the Green Movement, when thousands of Iranians took to the street to protest the re-election of Ahmadinejad in 2009, might have done him in. The Guardian Council’s official reason for excluding him was that Rafsanjani, at 74, was too old to run for office.
That leaves Jalili, who could render Iran more isolated than ever, at the precise time that the country’s economy desperately needs a boost. Iran is suffering through 32 percent inflation, a plummeting currency, and a 50 percent drop in oil exports as a result of U.N. sanctions.
Read more at THE WEEK.