Iranian Presidential Candidates Preaching Change, Too

Judging by the platforms of the three candidates presently approved to challenge Ahmadinejad in the June 12 presidential elections, they all wish to improve Iran's relations with the West.

Why? Three reasons demonstrate their motivations.

First is Barack Obama. His Nowruz (Iranian new year) message to the people of Iran and his popularity in the international arena has impacted domestic Iranian politics, without Obama making an overt statement such as a candidate endorsement. The majority of candidates see this as an opportunity, including Mohsen Rezai.

The former head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC), Rezai is currently sought by INTERPOL for his involvement in the 1994 AMIA bombing in Argentina. Despite his murky past, Rezai -- who sees himself as a pragmatic -- is standing for election. In a recent interview with the German newspaper Frankfurter Rundschau, Rezai stated that "current changes in American foreign policy must be taken seriously." The change he sees includes "America's lack of interest to send its armies around the world."

In other words, unlike Bush, Obama is not interested in the invasion of other countries -- including Iran. Rezai is interested in cooperating with the U.S. on issues such as illicit drugs, peace and stability in the Near and Middle East, and the global economic crisis.

When it comes to Israel, Rezai -- who referred to Imad Mughniya, the assassinated head of Hezbollah's armed forces, as his friend -- believes that the best way to prevent an Israeli attack is to build an international nuclear fuel consortium on Iranian soil. Such a group would include the U.S. itself, as well as Russia and the E.U. He believes that with such countries as stakeholders, Israel would be unlikely to attack.

Rezai also states that "the people of Palestine should determine their own destiny."

Domestic politics also fuel the drive for improved relations with the West, according to reformists Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi. These politicians have witnessed how U.S. relations and Holocaust issues have been hijacked by Ahmadinejad and his supporters. What worries them is that he has been using such issues to his advantage by isolating Iran. They know that Ahmadinejad and his radical partners thrive in isolation, using it to stifle domestic opposition. Isolation and confrontation with the international community also give Ahmadinejad an opportunity to implement policy with little concern for other voices. Over the last four years, the opposition has suffered under isolation and now wishes to put an end to it. They want to reclaim their stature within Iranian politics, and bringing Iran out of isolation is a means towards that end.