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Opinion: Iran Goes Back Into Isolation

Conservative hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's victory in Saturday's presidential election in Iran is likely to once again send the country into international isolation, says DW's Peter Philipp.

Waving good-bye to the West?

Before the presidential poll, Iranian conservatives stressed over and over that high voter participation would prove how democratic this election actually was and the small extent to which Iranians are willing to call into question the Islamic republic's system.

Now they'll have to change their tune, since participation in the run-off ballot was lower than in the first round of voting. In any case, it allotted a conservative -- Tehran Mayor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad -- an overwhelming victory.

But the conservative followers of "supreme leader" Ayatollah Ali Khamenei won't be hard-pressed to explain the result: The victory of Khamenei's 48-year-old protégé will be described as the logical continuation of the Islamic revolution which is supposed to increasingly come to the aid of the poor and curtail the privileges of the rich. With unemployment estimated at over 40 percent, the army of the poor is very big in Iran -- much bigger than that of the multi-millionaires in northern Tehran.

Rolling back freedoms

Social housing projects, cheap loans and other schemes are now supposed to help the poor. And there's nothing to argue with there, if only such plans weren't coupled with the stated aim of reintroducing a stricter Islamic regime and retrenching on nationalistic lines.

Will she be able to keep working in a cafe?

Socially, many of the freedoms that the middle class -- not just the upper class -- created for itself over the years is likely to be in danger: Women's somewhat more relaxed dress code and the somewhat greater orientation towards a Western way of life are merely two examples.

Politically though, the cuts could be significantly more serious. Ahmadinejad has already said he won't allow anyone to dictate the nuclear issue to him. That applies both to outgoing President Chatami as well as to Hashemi Rafsanjani, who Ahmadinejad defeated in the election.

Both Chatami and Rafsanjani were open to diplomacy, while the incoming president will certainly pursue a harder line that will again force Iran into international isolation -- isolation that will endanger the necessary economic projects that are essential to create jobs and improve the standard of living.


No escape from the globalization

Iran cannot avoid the global network either, despite the fact that public revenue is currently at a record level due to the high price of oil. Oil must be sold and the buyers -- Europe and, above all, China -- want in exchange to sell Iran products and services and invest there. They will hardly do so if again an extreme Islamic and xenophobic regime rules the country.

An Iranian clergyman chants slogans during a protest to denounce Iran's pledge to open its nuclear program to unfettered inspections

Are the Iranians themselves to blame? Only to a certain extent: On the one hand, the low turn-out was a result of deep disappointment with Chatami's unsuccessful reform efforts. But the West also entreated Iranians to boycott the election. In a strange coalition, from the White House to European leftist circles, from the Shah's devotees to the leftist-Islamic "Mujahedeen," they were told that there was no real choice involved, but rather a decision for plague or cholera, bad or worse.

Those who made these appeals can know sit back in comfort in Washington, Paris, Berlin and London. They won't have to pay for the consequences; the Iranians will.

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