Jun 25, 2005 11:29 am


The results of the Iranian elections must be faced and they are not pretty. Moreover, they will be costly. This are some of the reasons:

It would be foolish to claim that Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mahmoud Ahmadinezhad, the two candidates in the second round, are interchangeable. This would be like saying that Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping were the same because both belonged to the Chinese Communist Party.

The chief difference between the two is that with Ahamdinezhad you get what you see while with Rafsanjani you can never be sure. You cannot imagine Ahamdinezhad as something other than he appears to be. In a sense this is a contest between the chameleon and the mongoose.

A natural shape-shifter, Rafsanjani is a man for all seasons: He can be hard-liner, soft-liner, or no-liner according to circumstances. Ahamdinezhad, however, is a radical Khomeinist who means what he says even if that is impolite or impolitic.

Rafsanjani says he may, one day, nuke Israel out of existence, but does not really mean it. Ahmadinezhad has never spoken of the destruction of Israel but gives every indication of dreaming about it every night. Rafsanjani boasts that Iran is at war with the United States and would end up humbling the “Great Satan”, but is already putting feelers to Washington through British intermediaries. Ahmadinezhad seldom talks of the United States and even denies that there is a crisis in relations. But it is almost certain that he believes that the Khomeinist regime can lead an Islamist uprising to drive the United States out of the Middle East.

Rafsanjani says men and women are equal but does not believe it. Ahmadinezhad says they are unequal and believes what he says. Rafsanjani promises democracy but is remembered for eight years of despotism when he was last president. Ahmadinezhad, however, states publicly that there can be no democracy in Islam and that the “pure Islamic rule” he promises to establish would bear no relationship to the globally adopted Western pluralist model.

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