The Financial Times (UK) reports that Ken Pollack of the Brookings Institution says Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld have "a bizarre preference for Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, a fundamentalist and hardliner, over Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani" because of the fear that Rafsanjani is capable of "exacerbating the divisions between the U.S., which is essentially trying to contain Iran, and Europe, which favors the engagement approach."  --  Guy Dinmore and Roula Khalaf say that U.S. hawks also think Ahmadi-Nejad's victory "is more likely to precipitate the collapse of the Islamic regime," which has been the long-term goal of the U.S. national security ever since oil-rich Iran slipped out of its orbit in the "unthinkable revolution" of 1979 (see Charles Kurzman, The Unthinkable Revolution in Iran [Harvard University Press, 2004])....

Middle East & Africa

By Guy Dinmore (Washington) and Roula Khalaf (London)

Financial Times (UK)
June 24, 2005

As hardliners and pragmatists battle it out in the final round of Iran's presidential election today, rifts within the Bush administration have exposed a lack of coherent U.S. policy towards the Islamic republic, as well as serious differences with much of Europe.

"The Bush administration is as deeply divided as the Iranian government," commented Ken Pollack, analyst at the Brookings Institution.

U.S. "hawks," he said, had a bizarre preference for Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, a fundamentalist and hardliner, over Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the former president who sought to establish his more pragmatic credentials in part by making overtures to the US during his election campaign.

For the U.S. hardliners, led by Vice-President Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, the defense secretary, Mr. Rafsanjani presents the danger of exacerbating the divisions between the U.S., which is essentially trying to contain Iran, and Europe which favors the engagement approach.

The U.S. hawks also believe that a convergence of hardliners in Iran with the victory of Mr. Ahmadi-Nejad is more likely to precipitate the collapse of the Islamic regime through popular unrest than the "Chinese model" of social pacification likely to be embraced by Mr. Rafsanjani. One hardline official told the FT he saw no evidence that Mr. Rasanjani was less committed to developing nuclear weapons. The Bush administration, he said, harbored deep scepticism over the prospects of success in the nuclear freeze talks with Iran led by France, Germany and the U.K.

Even before Iranians had cast a vote in the first round last Friday, the Bush administration and conservatives in Washington had denounced the election as a sham and illegitimate.

President George W. Bush said on the eve of the vote that the Iranian electoral process, where all candidates are vetted, "ignores the basic requirements of democracy." He said it was a regime that "brutalizes its people."

Iranian activists said the exiled opposition had lobbied the administration and members of Congress to condemn the vote in advance.

Even analysts like Mr. Pollack who advocate a constructive and united U.S.-EU diplomatic approach towards Iran admit that Mr. Rafsanjani would be a "deeply problematic" president for the U.S. "No one trusts Rafsanjani," he said.

Much would hang on the position -- as yet unclear -- of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader, who has shown pragmatic inclinations of his own on occasion but is heavily under the influence of hardline clerics vehemently opposed to rapprochement with the U.S.

Hadi Semati, an Iranian analyst at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, said Mr. Rafsanjani might be able to persuade the conservatives in Iran to be more receptive to dialogue with the U.S. but only if the U.S. was willing to moderate its position. And there was no sign of that, he said.

The most recent exposition of U.S. policy towards Iran was delivered to a Senate hearing on May 19 by Nicholas Burns, under secretary of state for political affairs. He spoke of the "perverted process" of the Iranian elections, the intolerance of its theocracy, the pain still felt by the U.S. by the storming of its embassy in 1979, Iran's "appalling human rights record" and its support for terrorists.

European diplomats said yesterday that a victory by Mr. Ahmadi-Nejad would complicate nuclear talks as the U.K., France and Germany prepare to make a detailed compromise offer on curbing Iran's enrichment activities.

If Mr. Ahmadi-Nejad presides over the executive in Iran, said one diplomat, Iran's engagement with Europe promoted by outgoing reformist president Mohammad Khatami would become more "difficult."



Age: 49:

Elected mayor of Tehran in 2003. A leading member of a rising hardline group calling themselves 'fundamentalists' and seeking to return to the ideals of the 1979 Islamic Revolution. This new generation of politicians are fiercely loyal to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say in matters of state.


"We should announce firmly that we will not accept imposed relations. But if the U.S. gives up hostility and recognizss our nation's rights, then there is the possibility of considering relations."