Why I am rooting for Ahmadinejad

The West must beware of the “moderate” ticket in Iran’s presidential election


Most Westerners do not know who they want to win the Iranian presidential elections on June 12. But they certainly know who they want to lose: the incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Lawyer Alan Dershowitz wants Ahmadinejad prosecuted for “incitement to genocide”. Liberals line up to slam him as an “extremist” who stands in the way of a détente with the United States. And the Americans themselves have told Israel to tone down their anti-Iranian rhetoric until after the elections, because it might give Ahmadinejad a boost.

Well, this may be cold comfort to Mr Ahmadinejad, but he has at least one Westerner — a Jew, no less — rooting for him. Me. I believe that an Ahmadinejad victory would be best for Israel, and best for the West, although perhaps not so good for Iranians.

How so? There are certainly many policy differences between Ahmadinejad and his closest rival, Mir-Houssain Moussavi, who was Prime Minister from 1981 to 1989. (Former President Khatami dropped out of the race when Moussavi joined). Moussavi says he stands for improving relations with the West, Ahmadinejad thrives on the hostility. Moussavi wants more freedom for the press and for women, Ahmadinejad seems satisfied with the status quo. Moussavi is identified with relative economic discipline (inflation under him peaked at around 12 per cent), Ahmadinejad with soaring inflation (30 per cent).

Judged on these issues alone, there is no question that Moussavi is the better candidate. He might just bring about a more open, stable regime. But all these positives are outweighed by the candidates’ stance on one issue, an issue which is more important to Israel and to the West than all the others combined.

When it comes to Iran’s nuclear programme, Ahmadinejad and Moussavi — along with the two other presidential candidates allowed to run by Iran’s Guardians’ Council — are equally determined to press ahead.

Moussavi was quite clear on this, declaring in a news conference in April that “we have to have the [nuclear] technology”, that he would not talk to the US if the price was abandoning the nuclear programme, and that the damage caused by doing so would be “irreparable”. He continued to advance the line that Iran’s nuclear programme was peaceful, arguing: “Weaponisation and nuclear technology are two separate issues, and we should not let them get mixed up.”

No candidate is likely to speak differently as long as Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, the man who wields the real power in Iran, is in charge. There is across-the-board agreement that nuclear power is a vital Iranian interest.

So why does this shift the balance in Ahmadinejad’s favour? The fact is that in almost every report on the Iranian election in the Western media, Moussavi is labelled the “moderate” while Ahmadinejad is the “extremist”.

Their position on Iran’s nuclear technology, however, shows that, where it really counts, such distinctions are meaningless. The nuclear ambitions that both espouse could result in the destruction of Israel, the utter domination of the Muslim world, and the power to ride roughshod over the West. They both need to be stopped.

As long as Ahmadinejad is at the helm, there is a chance the West might do so.

Holocaust denial, wiping Israel off the map, denying the existence of homosexuality in his country — he utters every provocative and crazy thought, diplomatic niceties be damned. So, under him, Iran remains an international pariah.

Moussavi is far smarter, and understands that, as long as Iran makes the right noises, it can get away with whatever it likes (just as Palestinian leaders such as Arafat got away with incitement and terror during Oslo, because they told the world, in English, that they sought peace). Moussavi would not, for example, get drawn into discussion of the Shoah, saying that “the Holocaust is not our business”.

Armed with his “moderate” label, Moussavi will bring Iran back into the community of nations, all the while quietly working towards the same murderous goal as Ahmadinejad.

This makes him the far more dangerous man.

    Last updated: 11:08am, May 28 2009