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Rutgers Policy Expert Hopes to Become Iran’s Next President

3-27-13

As Iran prepares for elections in June, one American professor hopes to make it onto the ballot. Dr. Hooshang Amirahmadi, a policy professor at Rutgers University’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies, has been traveling overseas to raise funds for his campaign. NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider had a chance to speak with Amirahmadi about his candidacy and Iran’s nuclear threat.

Amirahmadi, who has lived in the United States for four decades, maintains American and Iranian citizenships. Amirahmadi’s presidential candidacy is not entirely within his control. He and all Iranian presidential candidates must be approved by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s Guardian Council ahead of the June election.

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While he is unable to say that he has convinced the Guardian Council in approving his candidacy, he said the issue of dual citizenship cannot be used against him. He said Iranian law does not recognize dual citizenship and that Iranian citizenship cannot be revoked unless one of two things happens.

“First that you write and revoke your citizenship or the government writes to you for whatever reason [and] revokes it. None of the two has happened and therefore from the legal perspective, the Islamic Republic cannot argue against my citizenship,” he explained.

Iran has become a mainstay in international headlines, defiant in its attitude toward the international community over its nuclear program. Amirahmadi said he was motivated to run because of a desire to restore normalized relations between Iran and the international community.

Despite pressure and sanctions from the U.S. and other western nations, Iran continues to staunchly defend its nuclear enrichment program. Amirahmadi said that while Iran has a right to develop civil nuclear technology, it must act within the confines of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) which Iran signed.

“The problem with Iran’s nuclear enrichment is not really enrichment itself, it’s the trust that the international community has lost in the Islamic Republic,” said Amirahmadi.

Iran’s current president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was elected to his second term in 2009, is not eligible to run again. Ahmadinejad has been a provocative figure, to say the least. Ahamadinejad has said that Israel must be “wiped off the map” and has hurled bizarre accusations against Western countries, including that they caused a drought in Iran.

Amirahmadi said he condemns such statements, calling them unjustified. “I think Israel is a reality, Israel has every right to exist just like any other nation,” Amirahmadi said.

The deterioration of U.S.-Iran relations began with the fall of the Shah more than 30 years ago, according to Amirahmadi. Since then, Amirahmadi said he has learned how the current regime operates and the “certain red lines” a presidential candidates needs to navigate within.

“If you don’t pass the red lines you are OK but then I’ve been very careful. I have learned over the last 30 years to learn first about those red lines,” said Amirahmadi. “That is very important to understand that but I think I would be safe.”