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On the Bus With Moussavi

As something of an addendum to the previous Iran post: Al Jazeera is hanging out with Mir Hossein Moussavi (I’m still hunting for the right style on spelling his name, but for now let’s use the more Persian transliteration “Hossein”) and produces a florid profile. Particularly valuable is this horse’s-mouth statement of intent on foreign policy:

[T]he challenger told me in calm and deliberate tones, the West need not hold its breath on the nuclear issue.

There will be no freeze and no halt to enrichment whatever inducements the US puts on the table. Enrichment to weapons grade uranium is on the table, he says.

But at the same time he confirms that his position on nuclear arms conforms with that of the supreme leader’s - that weapons of mass destruction are “haram” (forbidden).

“Building nuclear weapons is out of the question,” Mousavi tells me.

But no quarter will be given in the question of relations with Israel, nor will support be cut for Iran’s allies in the region. Backing of Palestinian Hamas and Lebanese Hezbollah is a mater of morality and self interest, he says, but this should not be interpreted as a signal of aggressive intent or a desire or confrontation.

This would appear to represent the Iranian ruling class’s consensus: nuclear energy is a right that won’t be abridged; Israel is an abomination; Iran ought to play a leading role in regional affairs. It’s important to remember that the Iranian presidency has minimal latitude to set foreign policy, so Moussavi ought to be read as a barometer of a certain perspective among a certain cohort, rather than a blueprint for potential Iranian international maneuver. That’s not to say his remarks aren’t significant: they place Ahmadinejad as* outside that consensus. Here’s how *Moussavi describes his own foreign policy, for instance: “Right now we believe that a powerful Iran can play a bigger international role by interacting with the rest of the world and building trust with them. This is what we are after.” Moussavi and Ahmadinejad share certain bedrock positions — as do, say, Dick Cheney and President Obama — since, after all, they’re both Iranians. It’s only sensible for Moussavi to frame his positions in a way that promises to maximize Iranian power. What’s more significant is he defines Iranian power as a positive-sum game for the rest of the world and consigns Ahmadinejad’s bellicosity to a negative-sum one.

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