Friday, February 13, 2009

Upcoming Iranian Elections and the U.S.

With its pursuit of nuclear technology, its funding of terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah and Hamas, and with its staunch anti-Israel stance, Iran has been at the center of controversy in the Middle East for decades. All eyes are now looking to newly elected President Obama as to how to handle this enigmatic country, whose populace seems to abhor its government and sympathize with the west, but whose theocracy headed up by the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and often ranting President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have taken a hard line against negotiations with the United States.

The 30th anniversary of the 1979 Iranian Revolution which resulted in the overthrow of the Shah and the installation of the current regime has arrived, and with it, a presidential election, which in light of recent news, should prove to be an interesting one. Former President of Iran Mohammad Khatami formally announced his candidacy at the beginning of this week. Known for his liberal tendencies and reformist policies, Khatami has already been met with an angry, religious opposition who didn't appreciate his desire for social and political freedom in the country his first two times as president from 1997-2005. 70 percent of Iran's population however is comprised of people under the age of thirty, most of whom hope to provide Khatami with broad based support.

In his inaugural address, President Obama said that he would be willing to take up conversations with countries such as Iran, if they were "willing to unclench their fist", something that hasn't occurred in thirty years. It comes as no coincidence then, with elections looming on the horizon, that Ahmadinejad is suddenly changing his tune. Once adamantly against the U.S. and past presidential administrations, he is now making overtures of friendship and willingness to sit down with the Obama White House to have a conversation based on "mutual respect and in an atmosphere of fairness." His way of appeasing the liberal constituency that will be showing up to the polls on June 12? It remains to be seen.

This is an incredible opportunity to talk with your students about the role of the president of the United States as a diplomat, negotiator, and treaty forger. You may turn their attention to Article II Section 2 of the Constitution, where these powers of the executive branch are clearly delineated.

The following video will also be helpful in order to illustrate how past presidents have fulfilled this role as head of the executive branch of the U.S.

After examining the constitution and watching the video, ask your students to apply their knowledge to the current situation in Iran, and its role in complex U.S./Middle East politics. Ask the questions:

  • Ask students to consider how President Obama's administration may choose to proceed with each candidate should they be elected president.
  • How will the results of the June 12 election in Iran affect its relationship with the United States? Israel?

1 comment:

  1. I know that President Obama has said he is willing to meet without any preconditions but considering the circumstance, I think some gesture of assurance that any meetings between Iran and the United States is not just a case of diplomatic “wheel spinning” on the part of Iran is necessary!