Would a President Mousavi bring reform to Iran?

Experts don't believe he would support radical change, but his ties to Iran's Islamic Revolution could empower him to push reforms.

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As opposition protests continue in Iran over the disputed election between incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and challenger Mir Hussein Mousavi, speculation has turned toward how a presidency led by Mr. Mousavi might change Iran.

US President Barack Obama expressed reservations about how different a Mousavi presidency might be in a Tuesday interview with CNBC

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"The difference in actual policies between Ahmadinejad and Moussavi in terms of their actual policies may not be as great as advertised," he said. "I think it's important to understand that either way we are going to be dealing with a regime in Iran that is hostile to the US."

Mr. Obama's comment drew criticism from his 2008 presidential opponent, Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona, who said on CNN, "To say there's not a bit of difference between the two candidates is beside the point," he said. "The Iranian people, obviously, think there's some difference, or tens or hundreds of thousands of them wouldn't be in the streets."

History does not distinguish Mousavi as a reformer. The Irish Times writes that Mousavi "is, and always has been, part of the very fabric of revolutionary Iran," and that many older Iranian voters still recall his time as prime minister from 1981 to 1989 as being far from radical.

"Many of the young people believe Mousavi would bring sweeping changes if he was president but I remember when he was prime minister you couldn't even wear a short-sleeved shirt," says Akbar.... "He may have softened a little since then, but he is still the same man in most respects."

The Times adds that, "...After talking to dozens of younger Mousavi supporters in the last week, it is clear that a great number, having no memory of the Mousavi of the 1980s, are somewhat vague as to what the man really stands for today."

The New York Times, in a profile of Mousavi, notes that during Mousavi's time as prime minister, he was often at odds with Ayatollah Khamenei, who was president at the time and sometimes seen as the more moderate politician.

As prime minister, [Mousavi] often clashed with Ayatollah Khamenei, who was president at the time. The fights were mostly over economic issues; Mr. Moussavi favored greater state control over the wartime economy, and Ayatollah Khamenei argued for less regulation. The president was more moderate on some issues, and unlike Mr. Moussavi, sometimes drew rebukes from Ayatollah Khomeini, then the supreme leader. In that sense they have switched positions, but the animus between them remains.

The Atlantic adds that experts don't believe that Mousavi would support "a full-on revolution against the current regime."

"Mousavi...is part of the system," [Alireza Nader of the Rand Corp.] said. "He's a revolutionary [in the 1979 sense], and this is why he was allowed to run in the first place."

Laura Secor of The New Yorker notes, however, that it is Mousavi's Islamic Revolution credentials that may enable him to make real changes that reformers, like former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, could not.

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