The Smiling Cleric’s Revolution

Khatami now finds himself swept up in a revolt that promises an altogether different and more volatile path to change. But where the Green Movement’s other leaders, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, have confronted the regime from the outside, explicitly challenging its legitimacy, the former president craftily continues to play the “inside” game. While Mousavi and Karroubi assume the dissident mantle from the seclusion of their house arrest in Tehran — and now face the prospect of a death-penalty trial if hard-line parliamentarians get their way — Khatami plays the part of politician, though one with a fundamentally different goal from what he once had. If his original task was to use the Islamic Republic’s political process to prove the system could work on its own terms, his new agenda is to use it to show that it cannot.

To that end, Khatami is busy working with other strategists in Tehran to lay the groundwork for a fresh challenge to the hard-line grip on power ahead of next year’s parliamentary elections. He sparked a political controversy after announcing at the end of December a list of preconditions for the reformists’ participation in the upcoming parliamentary elections. The demands amounted to a wish list for the wholesale transformation of the Islamic Republic, and seemed designed to demonstrate precisely the sort of vital changes the system could not tolerate — the release of political prisoners, the proper implementation of the Constitution… >>>

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