Ahmadinejad or Mousavi?

A throwaway line of mine at the Heritage Foundation on June 3 has turned into a minor internet sensation. Here it is, as presented by the left-wing journalist who broke the story:

I’m sometimes asked who I would vote for if I were enfranchised in this election, and I think that, with due hesitance, I would vote for Ahmadinejad,” Pipes said. The reason, Pipes went on, is that he would “prefer to have an enemy who’s forthright and obvious, who wakes people up with his outlandish statements.

I then went on more fully to explain this opinion at “Rooting for Ahmadinejad,” where I provided the context that this selective quote omitted:

Whoever is elected president, whether Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or his main opponent, Mir Hossein Mousavi, will have limited impact on the issue that most concerns the outside world – Iran’s drive to build nuclear weapons, which Khamene’i will presumably continue apace, as he has in prior decades. Therefore, while my heart goes out to the many Iranians who desperately want the vile Ahmadinejad out of power, my head tells me it’s best that he remain in office.

The startling events in Iran in the week since the election, however, have transformed Mousavi from a hack Islamist politician into the unlikely symbol of dreams for a more secular and free Iran. In the words of Abbas Milani, my colleague at the Hoover Institution, “If Ahmadinejad survives, it will be on the back of a Tiananmen-style crackdown. If Mousavi prevails, it will be on a wave of reformist sentiment.” While that reformist sentiment may not shake the regime  and is unlikely to stop the nuclear weapons program, it does hold out hope for substantial change.

Accordingly, I no longer want Ahmadinejad to serve as president for a second term but prefer Mousavi in that position. Better yet, of course, would be for neither of them to hold power but for the entire fetid Islamic Republic of Iran to collapse. While confident that process is underway. I have no idea if it is weeks or decades ahead. Whatever it requires, Mousavi as president hastens the process.

Daniel Pipes

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Daniel Pipes is director of the Middle East Forum and the author of several books, including Militant Islam Reaches America and In the Path of God: Islam and Political Power (Transaction Publishers), from which this column derives.

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