Before and after the U.S. presidential election Tehran indicated a surprising preference for the incumbent, President George W. Bush. In contrast, the Iranian media tended to say there is little difference between Bush and the challenger, Senator John Kerry, and their respective parties.
Presidential adviser and former Vice President for Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Hojatoleslam Mohammad Ali Abtahi said on 3 November that the U.S. elections will have a profound impact on the Middle East, Fars News Agency reported. "If you want my true opinion, Bush is better for the Middle East," Abtahi said. He explained that the United States is unaware of public sentiments in the region and has therefore always made mistakes there. U.S. understanding is improving with experience, but "if Kerry had won instead of Bush, everything would have to start all over again."
"Kerry's victory would not have brought us any joy; Bush's victory is no source of fear for us," Tehran parliamentary representative Manuchehr Mottaki said as he paraphrased a colleague, state television reported on 3 November. Mottaki, who serves on the National Security and Foreign Affairs Committee, said U.S. policy towards Iran has always been unreasonable and aggressive. "In the field of foreign policy there are no differences between the Republicans and the Democrats," he said. Turning to regional issues, Mottaki said, "Both parties have similar policies in the Middle East." He allowed that the parties have different methods of operating, but their interaction with Iran has always been unacceptable.
Bush's reelection may be good news for his supporters, "particularly the Zionists," but it will not serve U.S. interests, Iranian state radio commented on 3 November. The commentary said the gap between the United States and the international community will widen if the White House continues with its "unilateral policies," and it accused the Bush administration of warmongering and hegemony. It advised the White House to work on confidence building. The commentary also said that approximately 50 percent of the U.S. population opposes President Bush's domestic and foreign policies.
A "political expert" identified as "Sheikh Attar" said on state television on 3 November that by reelecting Bush the American people have given him a mandate to finish what he started. "This puts Bush in a more difficult situation, and for us, who are an enemy to the American government, this is better," Attar said. The Republican victory offers threats and opportunities, he said. On the one hand, he said, Republicans' aggression "allows the Iranian people to see the enemy clearly and openly." On the other hand, the republicans' ideological drive makes them unpredictable.
Most Iranian officials had not indicated any clear preference in the run-up to the election. President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami told reporters on 2 November that he is not very optimistic about the course of Iran-U.S. relations, IRNA reported. While refusing to indicate a preference in the outcome of the U.S. presidential election, Khatami hoped, "either Bush or Kerry will act realistically and rationally in the long-term interest of the United States to reduce tension by not interfering in the internal affairs of other countries," cnn.com reported.
Hamedan parliamentary representative Hamid-Reza Haji-Babai said on 2 November that the outcome of the U.S. presidential election will not have an impact on Iran, IRNA reported. The two parties' basic objectives are identical, he said, but the Republicans ignore international organizations and rely on force, whereas the Democrats use diplomacy. The electoral system is capitalistic, Haji-Babai went on to say, "and the Zionists are the main investors."
Not surprisingly, such comments elicited little reaction from outside observers. Prompting a greater response was Supreme National Security Council Secretary Hojatoleslam Hassan Rohani's late-October assertion that "We haven't seen anything good from the Democrats." Rohani added that most sanctions against Iran were imposed by the Clinton administration, and although the current administration utilizes hard-line rhetoric against Iran, it has not taken any practical steps against the Islamic Republic. This led "The Sunday Times" of London to report on 24 October, "Bush has secured the endorsement of a surprising ally -- Iran -- in his bid for reelection."
Iranian media reactions, meanwhile, generally stuck to an anti-American theme that denounced both candidates.
Tehran dailies' 4 November comments on the election ranged from the insulting to the subdued. The reformist "Etemad" said that President Bush's victory proves that the American people are "interested in unilateralism, aggression, and violation," and it added that "the effigy of bin Laden is made by the U.S. itself." Rather than regretting Bush's victory, "Siyasat-i Ruz" advised, the Islamic community should solve its own problems and not depend on the West. The conservative English-language "Kayhan International" said the world must learn to live with President Bush having another term in the White House. It advised the United States to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and to stop leading "reckless military adventures in the Arab and Islamic world."
A commentary in the 3 November "Jomhuri-yi Islami" said the point of the election is to deceive the American people into thinking that there is a difference between candidates' impact on humanitarianism and democracy. The only difference between the Republicans the Democrats, the daily added, is in their tactics. Their overall strategy is the same.
The U.S. election is taking place under circumstances different from the last two decades, the "Farhang-i Ashti" newspaper reported on 2 November. Whoever wins the election will have to continue past policies connected with the war on terrorism. The security issue now dominates other American concerns, such as unemployment, the budget deficit, welfare, abortion, and so on. Under a Republican administration the United States will try mightily to have the Iranian nuclear case brought before the UN Security Council, "Farhang-i Ashti" commented, and it would then be able to pressure Iran or even attack it militarily.
The Islamic world does not foresee a change in U.S. policies regardless of who wins in the presidential election, the Mehr News Agency commented on 1 November. It accused both candidates of being pro-Zionist, so Muslims are pessimistic, and it added that they are capitalists, so the masses of the Third World will not benefit. The commentary added that many U.S. voters no longer think they have a real choice in elections, and they are likely to opt out of the process due to their unhappiness with the Democratic and Republican parties. Nor is there much difference between the parties, according to the commentary, and third parties do not play a serious role.
The U.S. presidential election is "not without significance for Iran," according to a commentary in the 1 November "Etemad" newspaper, and Iranian nuclear activities have been addressed during the presidential debates. The commentary said the Republicans and the Democrats both want to deny Iran access to nuclear technology and where they diverge is that the Republicans favor a unilateral approach to dealing with Iran, whereas the Democrats would take a multilateral approach and build an international coalition against Iran. Whoever wins, therefore, there will be no change in the policy of pressuring Iran. The commentary noted that since the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, security has become the most important issue for Americans, and both candidates portray themselves as the most able to deal with the terrorism threat. The election, the commentary concluded, marks the beginning of a new phase in Iran-U.S. relations.
"It is not important if Bush or Kerry win the election, because the Republican and Democratic parties are the same, and as the saying goes, the yellow dog is the brother of the jackal, and they are both after pillaging the other nations and fooling the people of America," the hard-line "Jomhuri-yi Islami" newspaper editorialized on 1 November. Nevertheless, according to the daily, this is the most sensitive U.S. election ever for Eastern and Islamic people. The daily accused the Republicans of being hawkish warmongers, and it cited the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq; the reference to Iran, Iraq, and North Korea as an "axis of evil;" and support for Israel as examples of President Bush's "aggressive and warmongering performance." The Democrats are just as bad, it continued, citing the Vietnam War and support for Israel.
International affairs expert Hussein Mohammadi predicted that the U.S. election will be "sensational and fraudulent," the hard-line "Resalat" reported on 1 November. He went on to claim that most Republican Party support comes from neoconservatives, Zionists, multinational corporations, and arms manufacturers, whereas Democratic Party support comes from the middle class, academics, intellectuals, and environmentalists. Whoever wins, Mohammadi said, the president must serve the Zionists' interests rather than those of the American people.
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