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Meet the Boss in Iran

By New York Daily News, New York Daily News - June 13, 2009

They held a hell of an election in Iran yesterday, with hopes riding high that nuclear madman and Holocaust denier Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would get a comeuppance at the ballot box.

To watch the fervor of the campaign was to get swept up in the illusion that citizens of the Islamic Republic had decided in large numbers that they, too, had had enough of a government that overtly calls for the destruction of Israel and covertly works to accomplish same.

Not at all. Not in the least. While Ahmadinejad and leading challenger Mir-Hossein Mousavi issued competing victory claims, the government's official tally put Ahmadinejad in the lead. If you can believe it.

The drive to unseat him was fueled by bread-and-butter issues, like runaway inflation, as well as by cultural issues, like the punishing diktats of the country's morality police.

Passions ran high over the restrictions and indignities of daily life, not over living in a state that is an atomic outlaw and major exporter of terrorism. On the contrary, those are sources of pride.

Nary a one of the four candidates called for dropping pursuit of nuclear weaponry or for cutting ties to Hezbollah. Not even Mousavi, the so-called moderate in the race. He told Time he viewed the nuclear program as a right, though he thought weaponization was "negotiable."

Let's define our terms. Mousavi is moderate only in comparison to fellow candidate Mohsen Rezaei, wanted in Argentina on charges stemming from the 1994 bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish center that killed 85 people. He is moderate in that he took the stunning, for Iran, step of having his wife appear in the campaign. He is moderate in that he does not rave in the manner of Ahmadinejad.

In point of fact, Mousavi is cut from the same cloth as all the others. Almost 500 Iranians sought permission to run for election. All were screened by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's Council of Guardians for fealty to Islamic revolutionary precepts. The four contenders got the stamp of approval.

Still, it must be noted that Mousavi threw a bit of a scare into the ayatollah. His hints of personal liberation through a "Green Revolution" touched a nerve among Iranians. So much so that a Khamenei henchman felt compelled to warn people not to get carried away.

One can only dream.

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