The BBC, back when Obama won the US election, said his victory would offer hope to Iranians. Hope that US/Iranian relations could change and hope that Iranians could emboldened to make changes in their own country. This is a painfully ironic situation.
Mohammad Khatami was Iran's Barack Obama, way back before Barack Obama was even in the US Senate. A figure from the fringes of politics, with a solid, diverse base, large student backing and seen as a rank outsider against a well organised political machine. With a rag-tag bunch of friends and family he stormed onto the election trail, straight-talking, personable with a catchy slogan about change. Yes, Khatami looked unlikely to win the presidential election. But he did. And he soon found himself powerless to effect any meaningful change, outmaneuvered by a re-grouped opposition and unable to fulfill many of his campaign promises because his position has no real authority.
Geneive Abdo and Jonathan Lyons' Answering Only to God: Faith and Freedom in Twenty-First Century Iran (review from Payvand here) is an account of Khatami's rise to power, the problems he faced, an how he eventually turned on those who had brought him to power. Full of interviews with many of the Islamic Republic's power-brokers and loyalists turned critics, it could almost describe the predicament Barack Obama finds himself in. Unlike Khatami who was made powerless by the Guardian Council, right-wing clerics and the Supreme Leader, Ali Khameni, Obama is made powerless by Congress and the American political system. Unable to fulfill his campaign promises, saddled by economic problems caused by his predecessors and a global recession, Obama's presidency looks set not to offer hope to Iranians but to reassure them that they're not alone in having problems with their political system and the disappointment caused when reality triumphs over mere hope.