The man who wants to be the next president of Iran sits in a hotel lobby,steps from his office and thousands of miles away from the country he wants to lead,a distance surpassed only by the hurdles he needs to clear even to land on the ballot.
Hooshang Amirahmadi,a bespectacled professor of public policy at Rutgers University,declared his candidacy for the Iranian presidency last year. Hes now well into a quixotic quest that has taken him on fundraising jaunts from New York to California to Dubai and,finally,to Iran next month.
Amirahmadi,65,has lived in the United States for 40 years,calling it my country. He married his wife here,and his daughter was raised in New Jersey. But he feels compelled to run for office in Iran to reconcile the conflict he and other Iranian-Americans feel within.
I feel like,you know,its not easy to be an Iranian originally and be here,and be a citizen of this country,and see the two sides of you fight each other every day, Amirahmadi said.
Under Mahmoud Ahmadinejad,Iran has increasingly become defiant over its nuclear programme,refusing to bow to Western pressure and sanctions. Ahamadinejad has also said Israel must be wiped off the map and has hurled bizarre accusations against Western countries,including that they caused a drought in Iran.
Amirahmadi founded the non-profit American Iranian Council and started working to smooth diplomatic relations between the countries.
Even though he is already a behind-the-scenes player,Amirahmadis candidacy is a long shot. He and all Iranian presidential candidates must be approved by Supreme Leader Ali Khameneis Guardian Council ahead of the June election. His American citizenship,along with his beliefs,including freedom of the press and a government based on rationalism rather than religion,may immediately disqualify him.
This is not a serious candidacy at all, said Mehrzad Boroujerdi,a professor of political science at Syracuse University. He has no chance whatsoever getting an OK from the Guardian Council. Indeed,his American citizenship will disqualify him easily.
Waving off the skeptics,Amirahmadi said he has dual American and Iranian citizenship and is confident he will be approved. He has spoken with members of the council about his presidency,but not the supreme leader. He thinks his years working in both the US and Iran – he goes back about once a year and has worked on various projects in the country – put him in a rare position to broker deals.