Iran’s New Contender

WASHINGTON, DC – Iran’s presidential race just got more interesting, with former Prime Minister Mir Hussein Mousavi throwing his hat in the ring and former President Mohammad Khatami withdrawing his. This development poses the most significant challenge yet to current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – and a potential opportunity to alter the relationship between Iran and the West.

Mousavi, who believes that Iran is in “poor shape,” is perceived by many of the Iranian elite to possess the revolutionary and ideological credentials to run against Islamist fundamentalists such as Ahmadinejad. At the same time, he is associated with Iranian reformists, who believe that Iran must enact major domestic and foreign policy changes to escape its economic crisis and international isolation.

A Mousavi presidency could lead to foreign policies that incorporate engagement with the United States and European Union on a number of issues, including Iran’s nuclear program. However, Mousavi will face many obstacles in the months leading up to the June 12 vote, and he will succeed only if allowed to by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Mousavi was an important part of the revolutionary movement that overthrew the Shah in 1979. As Prime Minister from 1981 to 1989, he was credited for steering Iran through the crises of the early revolutionary period and the Iran-Iraq war.