Ali Larijani is emerging as one of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s principle rivals among conservatives, and while some people have suggested that this is an encouraging sign, I’ve never found it too reassuring. This Sami Moubayed profile of him over at Asia Times Online gives an idea why:
The two men differ in style, not in substance. Both want to continue to support Hezbollah in Lebanon. Both want to pursue Iran’s dream of nuclear power for civilian use and refuse to grant concessions to the Americans, and both strive to export the Islamic revolution outside its borders, to neighboring countries like Iraq.
Ahmadinejad, however, makes rash statements regarding the annihilation of America – and Israel. Larijani, a more seasoned and wiser statesman, steers clear of such controversial territory. When asked, Larijani once said, “Ideologically, I have no differences with Ahmadinejad, but we have indeed differences in style, approach and management.”
During his tenure as chief negotiator for Iran’s nuclear program, Larijani was anything but a pushover, and if anything, he strikes me as potentially more dangerous than Ahmadinejad for being just as tenacious without any of the amateur hour provocativeness. As a favorite of Ayatollah Khamenei, Larijani seems well-positioned to be Iran’s next president. With his refined image as a seasoned diplomat, it’s easy to imagine that he’d make the perfect partner across a negotiating table from Barack Obama come 2009. But I wouldn’t be too sure.