After Obama, Khatami? Not so fast, says Geoffrey Kemp writing at the National Interest:

Khatami represents the smiling face of Iranian reformers. He is knownas a “moderate,” primarily because he has a more lax attitude towardssocial issues, such as women’s dress. But on the fundamentals of theIranian Revolution he is a hard-liner. . . .

. . . There is no indication at this point that the nuclear program will slowdown under a Khatami presidency. Those who welcome the announcement ofhis candidacy are correct that it will lead to an exciting presidentialrace. But those who think it will change the fundamental confrontationon the nuclear issue are probably wrong.

That was my initial reaction to the enthusiasm Stateside that greeted Khatami’s announcement of his candidature. After all, if he was in a position to come clean about the Iranian nuclear program in 2003, it was because he’d presided over it clandestinely for six years already.

But where Khatami might make a difference is on a global rapprochement with the United States, whereby the nuclear issue is resolved as but one among the many outstanding issues of conflict between the two countries, as recommended by Peter Kiernan yesterday in his WPR opinion Briefing, Things to Consider When Approaching Iran. The danger of Khatami, as Kemp points out, is that his election might make it harder to bring Europe on board for sanctions in the event that diplomatic outreach fails to deliver results. The promise of Khatami is that his election just might make diplomatic outreach more likely to deliver results.

In addition to both raising hopes of a U.S.-Iran rapprochement, Obama and Khatami also share something else in common. While Obama raised eyebrows Stateside with a “fist jab” exchanged with wife Michelle on the campaign trail, Khatami has raised eyebrows in Iran with Western-style handshakes on at least two occasions. As president, in 2005, he allegedly shook hands with Israel’s then-President Moshe Katsav, an Iranian-born Jew, at Pope John Paul II’s funeral. And in 2007, also coincidentally in Italy, he was photographed shaking hands with a group of women, apparently in breach of some Iranian conservatives’ interpretation of Islamic convention.