Mohammad Khatami, the former Iranian president who recently announced he is running for that office once again, gives Iran its best chance of reconciling with neighbours and the world community and rescuing a collapsing economy from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejadâ€™s gross mismanagement. Khatami also represents the best hope of human rights defenders in Iran, democratic activists, and Iranian women.
Khatamiâ€™s reformist impulses were bridled by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and hard-line power centres during his two previous terms, from 1997 to 2005. Still, President Obama would have a better chance of transforming relations with Iran if Khatami wins Iranâ€™s June 12 election.
Obama could cast a discreet vote for Khatami by expressing not only respect for Iranian civilization but also a desire to see modern Iran flourish. To counter Iranian hard-linersâ€™ propaganda, Obama should repeat over and over that the US does not wish to deprive Iran of the peaceful uses of nuclear power â€” only to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons. And Obama should paint a picture of prosperity that awaits Iran if it reaches an accommodation with the US. It is not fanciful to assume that Iranians would like to replace an incompetent incumbent with an openminded reformer.