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CLICK IMAGE FOR PHOTOS FROM THE TIME OF LONDON

CLICK IMAGE FOR PHOTOS FROM THE TIMES OF LONDON

Dane: What’s happening in Iran?

Yuji: They had an election for the nation’s president.

Dane: Who won?

Yuji: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Dane: How do you pronounce that?

Yuji: ach-ma-dina-jad

Dane: So how many votes did this guy get?

Yuji: He won 63% of the vote, enough for another 4-year term.

Dane: What kind of politician is he?

Yuji: He’s a conservative, right-wing, hardliner.

Dane: So what does he support?

Yuji: He supports traditional values, helping the poor, nuclear power development and a strong stand against Israel and the West.

Dane: He sounds a little like George Bush – except for the part about helping the poor.

Yuji: In many ways he is the Iranian George Bush; he encourages patriotism, never listens to other countries, and says he’s on a mission for God.

Dane: Is he popular?

Yuji: He’s very popular with a lot of people in Iran and all over the Islamic world but he’s very unpopular in the West.

Dane: What kind of people support him?

Yuji: A lot of them could be compared to the right-wing Christians and rednecks who supported Bush.

Dane: What big powers are behind him?

Yuji: Where Bush had the big corporations, Ahmadinejad has the support of Iran’s all powerful religious leaders.

Dane: Who’s the other candidate?

Yuji: His challenger, Mir-Hossein Mousavi who ran as a moderate-liberal.

Dane: What did he promise?

Yuji: His campaign promised to improve the economy and to end some of the stricter traditional systems like the religious police who enforce traditional moral laws.

Dane: That sounds good. Anything else?

Yuji: He promised to give women more rights, to allow private TV networks and to ease restrictions on Internet use.

Dane: How popular is he?

Yuji: He’s very popular with women, young people and the educated middle-class, especially in urban areas.

Dane: How long has the Islamic government been in power?

Yuji: It has been 30 years since the Islamic revolution overthrew the American backed government of Shah Pahlavi.

Dane: It’s about time for some change, I’d say.

Yuji: Mousavi promised some relief from the strict Islamic system and some hope that Iran could join the modern world.

Dane: Hope and Change versus Traditional Values and Patriotismthat sounds familiar.

Yuji: But there are two things that make this election very different from the US presidential election.

Dane: What’s the main difference?

Yuji: One is that the constitution gives the most power to the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Dane: Supreme Leader? That sounds scary!

Yuji: Actually, I heard that his title in Farsi is just Leader , but the English translation comes out as Supreme Leader so we can distinguish him from all the other ayatollahs.

Dane: Well, whatever the title, who is he?

Yuji: In the Iran’s Shia branch of Islam the ayatollah we call the Supreme Leader is something like the Pope in the Roman Catholic Church, but in this case he’s also the top political leader.

Dane: So, Mousavi would need the Ayatollah’s blessings to get any changes made.

Yuji: Exactly! And the other thing that makes Mousavi’s promise of hope and change seem more like wishful thinking is his past record.

Dane: Well in his photos he looks like a kind old uncle.

Yuji: Yes, he was educated as an architect and is an accomplished artist.

Dane: That sounds a lot better than the other guy.

Yuji: Yeah, but he was also prime minister from 1981 to 1989.

Dane: You mean he wasn’t a reformist then?

Yuji: He refused to end the war with Iraq, ordered strict government controls over society and the economy and worked closely with the religious leaders.

Dane: That sure doesn’t sound like much of a reformer!

Yuji: Whatever he is, he and his supporters claim that the election was rigged, that Ahmadinejad’s government controlled the voting.

Dane: Just like Florida in 2000.

Yuji: But these guys refuse to accept the results.

Dane: Watching the mass demonstrations on TV it’s easy to believe that another revolution could be in the making.

Yuji: Well, we’d like to believe that the demonstrators could reverse

the election results.

Dane: Do you think Obama will help them?

Yuji: There is pressure on the Obama administration to show some sign of support for the demonstrators.

Dane: But even if Obama follows his own pretty words about power to the people, do you really think Ahmadinejad will step down?

Yuji: No. Instead, relations between Washington and Tehran will get worse.

Dane: That will probably end the chance of getting any agreements for a long while.

Yuji: That’s right. And if Obama ignores them and continues business as usual, he’ll be attacked by liberals in the West for not following his own words.

Dane: And how will Bin Laden take advantage of the situation?

Yuji: He’ll probably accuse America of being a treacherous ally.

Dane: Really? How could he turn the Iranian election into anti-US propaganda?

Yuji: He’ll tell the Muslim world something like:“Eisenhower set up the Shah in Iran and then Carter abandoned him to the revolution in 1979.”

Dane: Oh yeah, and; “Reagan armed the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan against the Soviets and then abandoned them to poverty.”

Yuji: Then, Bin Laden will say;“Papa Bush called the Shia people to arms against Saddam Hussein in 1991, and then abandoned them to be slaughtered.”

Dane: And he’ll remind us how;

“Baby Bush called for democracy in Palestine and then rejected the election of Hamas.”

Yuji: So he can just add, “And now Obama gives the people of Islam words of encouragement in Cairo and abandons them in Tehran.

Dane: His conclusion?

Yuji: “If you need a true friend, look to Al Qaeda, not to America.”

Dane: That’s so ironic. America is made out to be the bad guy and they didn’t even do anything — this time.

Yuji: Yeah. since America’s always promoting democracy, it is pretty ironic that this time it was a democratic electionthat has put the U.S. in a no-win situation.

Dane: Well, who knows, something good might come out of it after all.

Yuji: Yeah. I guess there’s always room for hope.

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