Khatami Folds His Tent and Pulls out of Presidential Race

Ex-president Muhammad Khatami was never serious about running for the Iranian presidency in the June elections.

DEBKA-Net-Weekly's Iranian sources report that he did not bother to set up a campaign headquarters or spend money on electioneering. His withdrawal only five weeks after announcing his bid surprised no one in Tehran, even within his own reformist camp which opposes the incumbent president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's policies.

Nevertheless, it was a setback for US president Barack Obama's plans to hold off his dialogue with Iran until after the June election, presumably in the hope of a new president (as revealed in DEBKA-Net-Weekly 383: Holding off Dialogue for June Invites more Surprises.).

No one in Washington admitted to the hope that Iran's domestic economic crisis would help unseat the hard-line Iranian president, although it was not endorsed by any of Obama's advisers, or the Europeans he consulted with, such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

This hope was further fanned by Khatami's decision to run against Ahmadinejad. Western experts' assessment that the reformist leader was the key to regime change in Teheran and the termination of Iran's military nuclear program was a mirage generated by wishful thinking.


Khatami is a founding father of Iran's nuclear program


The reformist ex-presidential candidate does not think in terms of regime change. At most, he would like to see more democracy, but not at the expense of the Islamic Revolution which is Iran's ideological bedrock. As president, he laid the foundations for a program to arm Iran with a nuclear weapon and its uranium-enrichment facilities. His successor Ahmadinejad developed this program and Iran's ballistic missile production.

DEBKA-Net-Weekly's Iran experts say the West misjudged Khatami's intentions as second-term president. He had no intention of interrupting Iran's nuclear plans to avoid a confrontation with the West. And in any case, he had not the power to do so – not just out of personal weakness, but because the say over the program rests not with the president but with supreme spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC)

DNW 382 of January 30: What Ails Ahmedinejad? offered this prediction:

Muhammad Khatami, will not run because he and his following know very well that the Revolutionary Guards would not let them return to power.

In 15 years of opposition to the religious extremists who rule Iran, the reformists have never had the strength or the cunning for pushing out the forces which control most of the country's key posts and power centers. Khatami is well aware that the reformists lack the clout to return him to the presidency and is therefore biding time for broader support.”

This week Khatami came to this conclusion himself and dropped out of the race for president.

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