Ahmadinejad's demise and the possibility that he could resign or be dismissed before the end of his term, has created a new situation where some "Iran experts" can return to their favorite game: finding a new political figure in Tehran with desired qualifications that will make the regime friendlier with the West. A game that has been masterfully directed from Tehran.
After Rafsanjani the moderate, Khatami the reformist, Larijani the realist, Ahmadinejad the assertive nationalist, now is the time for a new rising star in the pro-appeasement jargon: Mohammad Reza Ghalibaf.
Geneive Abdo is one of these "experts" who runs the InsideIran website. She has published a featured article about Ghalibaf that starts with her own note:
" A political analyst close to Tehran’s mayor, Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf, tells InsideIRAN that Qalibaf is poised to replace Ahmadinejad. The analyst’s identity must be kept confidential for security reasons. He spoke to insideIRAN from Tehran."
Then, the Tehran based analyst goes on to promote the candidate":
"Q: There is a lot of discussion that Tehran’s Mayor, Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf, is a good candidate for president in light of the current political conflict. Is this true?
A: Yes, this is true. Qalibaf canceled all planned foreign visits just to be around if he is needed, as the situation and rift are escalating. It is more possible than ever that president Ahmadinejad will be forced to resign and new elections will be organized two months after his resignation. Now, the most important and serious candidate is Qalibaf. His teams are already working for such a scenario, and are preparing plans to govern, if needed. The Supreme Leader likes Qalibaf a lot, and he is a trusted person with a good record of management with good results, and he is a very obedient servant [of the Supreme Leader]: this makes him the best choice for the system."
Despite her generosity to provide her website to Ghalibaf's game, Abdo is not the first to discover and promote him. Back in 2007, Maziar Bahari who worked for Newsweek, ran a whole article on mayor of Tehran and presented him as the possible next president with qualifications that even Ghalibaf could not imagine:
"Iran's next presidential vote isn't due until 2009, but Ghalibaf is already casting a shadow on Ahmadinejad's future... where Ahmadinejad is confrontational and "showboaty," Ghalibaf is a pragmatist with a reputation for getting things done. The mayor's résumé lists one overachievement after another. The son of a truck driver, Ghalibaf became a Revolutionary Guards commander at 22. He earned a Ph.D. in geopolitics while training as a pilot after the Iran-Iraq War. He led the Revolutionary Guards Air Force and then the country's security forces.
As top cop he won yet more fans. In 2003 he did something virtually unheard of: he quelled a student protest without bloodshed by holding talks with student leaders and ordering his men not to use batons or guns in dispersing the crowds. He showed a rare sense of compassion in other ways, as well, OK'ing a needle-exchange program for addicts and setting up a meeting for prostitutes to discuss alternatives to their profession."
Can Abdo match Bahari's imagination? Not sure. But one thing is certain; Playing into the regime's game of promoting various factions could end up with a lasting hangover. Bahari was arrested and jailed during the same election that Ghalibaf was supposed to win. He was endured months of torture and humiliation.