Professor pursues candidacy in Iranian presidential race


Amirahmadi, Iranian native, requires approval from country’s Guardian Council


A University professor is in the midst of campaigning to become the president of Iran.

Hooshang Amirahmadi, a professor at the Bloustein School of Public Planning and Policy, said he is confident that is the best candidate for the Iranian presidency.

“I have the background, the motivation, I am qualified,” he said. “That’s why I am running.”

Amirahmadi said he is a bridge-builder, peacemaker and economic development expert, which qualifies him as a suitable president for Iran.

 “They need a person who can act as a bridge builder . . .  among the various political factions that are fighting each other,” he said. “[They need] someone who is a peacemaker that can make peace between the U.S. and Iran and also some who knows how economies work.”

Amirahmadi said he became a peacemaker by spending past 25 years mending U.S.- Iranian relations. One of his proudest accomplishments was creating the American Iranian Council, organization that promotes dialogue between the two countries.

Iran’s economy is in deep trouble—the country’s unemployment is high, inflation is high and Iranian currency has plunged, he said. Restoring a relationship with the United States would boost the economy.

“If I become president, I will be in the White House in the first 100 days to mend that relationship and get it over with,” he said. “That will open up the country to foreign investment  . . . using that opportunity will help the economy grow.”

Amirahmadi said he will be an effective bridge-builder because his lack of affiliation with any political parties will make him a mediator among the different political factions.

He said experiences teaching economic development, global change and public policy at the University give him expert knowledge on developing economies like Iran. Within the four years of his administration, he plans to create six million jobs.

Amirahmadi said the desire to help his homeland drives his campaign, along with a feeling of responsibly to mend U.S. - Iranian relations.

“If Iran becomes a failed estate, it will harm the American interest in the region as well. Iran is a big country, it’s a huge country, a historical country and god forbid if Iran becomes a failed estate then we all suffer,” he said.

In 2005, Iran’s Guardian Council turned down Amirahmadi as a candidate for president. He said the campaign failed because he had not campaigned in Iran long enough and did not have a strong platform.

“I didn’t have people, organization, [a] website, nothing. I was there just to put my name out there,” he said.

But Amirahmadi said Iran’s government in 2005 was very different from today’s government and is confident the Guardian Council will accept his candidacy this year.

“In eight years, there’s more than 100 years difference now. . . . The economy, it wasn’t doing that bad then but today it’s very bad. Now it’s qualitatively, fundamentally different and I’m hoping that this change . . . will make the Guardian Council rethink its view of me.,’ he said.

Amirahmadi said his biggest challenge is gaining approval from the Guardian Council. He will spend four months this year campaigning: This year plans to spend four months campaigning in Iran: putting together policy statements and policy positions and educate the people and government.

“If i get approved, I will be elected, no question what so ever, no problem. They will vote for me,” he said.

Amirahmadi is on sabbatical his campaigning. But he said running for Iran’s president will not make him forget the University.

Eric Davis, a professor in the Department of Political Science said he does not believe Amirahmadi has a chance of winning Iran’s presidential election.

“Even if [the Guardian Council] were to allow him to run, I think that since he’s living outside the country then some people will be suspicious of what he’s trying to do that he’d not get the necessary votes to actually win,” he said.

But Davis, the past director of the University’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies, said he doubts the Guardian Council will approve his candidacy. The council, run by the Islamic clerics, view Amirahmadi as a a secular individual.

Although the Iranian government is hostile to the United States, David said public opinion polls show that the Iranian people have very favorable views on the American people.

“It is very striking that very few countries in the world where the populace has such favorable views of the United States as Iran. A lot of people might do a double take when they hear that . . . They’re very admiring of American political freedoms, American culture,” he said

This hostility perpetuates because the real power in Iranian lies within the Guardian Council, not the presidency, who has the final say in all executive decisions, Davis said having a strong relationship with the United States would undermine the council’s power.

“By keeping up this conflict, they use that as a way to suppress democracy . . . it’s in their political interest, their economic and political power, to keep up a state of tension with the United States,” he said.

Davis said Amirahmadi s intimate knowledge of both Iranian and American cultures would make him a great bridge between Iran and the West.

“That could be very, very valuable in trying to do away with this crisis that exists now in trying where the Iranian government is trying to develop nuclear weapons and the international community posed dramatic economic sanctions on Iran in trying to prevent it from achieving that goal,” he said.

Davis said Amirahmadi’s platform represents the youth’s voice, who generally do not support the policies of the council.

“Atthe very least what he’s doing is a very good public relations campaign to call attention to the fact that their are people in Iran such as he who would like to see better relations between Iran and the United States,” he said.

Matt Pienkodski, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, said Amirahmadi’s policies in action would be effective, but does not think the theocratic council will approve his candidacy.

“He will improve relations with the west which will improve Iran’s economy,” he said. “All the sanctions being put on them are hurting their currency and that in turn is causing inflation.”

Eva Warsak, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, said Amirahmadi will have trouble winning the presidency because Iran’s current president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has many supporters.

“This guy is going to be up for a tough fight against the current president’s party but he does have a chance with a lot of the younger people I think because there is a big pro-democracy movement going on [in Iran],” he said.

Tyler Gold, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, said he likes the idea of having an American sympathizer in Iran’s government, but he said Amirahmadi’s chances of winning are slim.

“I feel like there’s no precedent,” he said. “He’s a professor at an American university.

He’s here. When was the last time he was in Iran? I feel like if he were in Iran it would be different.”

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