Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Iran's Former President Khatami Challenges Current President Ahmadinejad on the Holocaust

On March 1, former Iranian President Muhammad Khatami [right], who is also a Shi'i seminarian (hojjatoleslam), said that the Holocaust was a "historical reality" and a "massacre of innocent people, among them many Jews." Although he declined to mention Iran's current hardline president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who called the Holocaust a "myth" in late 2005, by name, many analysts belive that Khatami's statements were aimed at the new president.

Khatami, who supports Iran's right to nuclear power and the right of Lebanon's Shi'a to resist Israeli aggression and is highly critical of the U.S. invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq, was also highly critical of any attempt to call the Holocaust a myth, maintaining his moderate position on the Iranian political spectrum. His support for his nation's nuclear program is a clear sign that many, if not the majority, of Iranians support their country's nuclear ambitions and oppose any attempts by the U.S. or the European Union to hinder these ambitions. Khatami is also a proponent of increased democratization in the Islamic world.

For more on Muhammad Khatami, see:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/4763494.stm

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/4703260.stm

Khatami was elected to the presidency of Iran in 1997 and re-elected in 2001 with over 70 and 77 percent of the popular vote respectively. During his two terms in office, he attempted to engage the West, particularly the United States, in dialogue in order to bridge the gap between the Islamic world and the West. Khatami also attempted to loosen his country's strict social codes, but many of his reforms were blocked or reversed by the conservative Guardian Council, the group of revolutionary clerics and officials who can block legislation deemed contrary to Islam or the Iranian Revolution, and Iran's supreme leader, Ayatullah al-Uzma Sayyid 'Ali Khamenei [left].

Ahmadinejad [right] was elected in June 2005, defeating self-described reformer Ayatullah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Ahmadinejad, the former mayor of Tehran, has been a controversial figure during his brief time in office, challenging the West's attempt to halt Iranian nuclear power ambitions and calling for the destruction of Israel and the relocation of all Israeli Jews to Europe or another place in the West.

For more on Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, see my previous posts:
http://occident.blogspot.com/2005/06/hardliner-wins-iranian-presidency.html