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Ahmadinejad vs. Musavi: Hitting Below the Belt

Mir Hossein Musavi leaves the studio after his debate with incumbent Mahmud Ahmadinejad.
Mir Hossein Musavi leaves the studio after his debate with incumbent Mahmud Ahmadinejad.
On the evening of June 3, President Mahmud Ahmadinejad and moderate candidate Mir Hossein Musavi went head-to-head in a televised debate.

The debate was fierce and the tone was harsh. And Ahmadinejad stayed true to form -- full of fiery attacks and outrageous accusations.

The president focused his attacks not only on Musavi himself, but also on Musavi’s wife and supporters, including two former presidents and their families.

Ahmadinejad accused the former two-term presidents, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami, of plotting to crush his government.

But most of Ahmadinejad’s attacks were more personal. Ahmadinejad questioned whether Musavi’s wife, Zahra Rahnavard, actually has two master’s degrees as she claims, saying that she was actually a government employee at the time when she was supposedly studying at two universities.

On June 4, Rahnavard told Iran’s “Qalam” daily that she was prepared for any investigation into her education and background.

Ahmadinejad also questioned the validity of his predecessor Mohammad Khatami’s PhD. And his attacks on Rafsanjani were even more outrageous, accusing the former president and his children of corruption.

The president didn’t shy away from one of his favorite subjects: the Holocaust. Shortly before the debate, he once again said that the genocide of Jews during World War II was no more than “a big deception,” a claim he has made many times, provoking an international outcry. During the debate, Ahmadinejad took issue with his rivals for criticizing his stance on the Holocaust.

For his part, Musavi said Ahmadinejad’s remarks on Israel and the Holocaust have backfired, resulting in increasing international sympathy toward Israel. He criticized Ahmadinejad for isolating the country and leaving Iran without any allies in the region.

Musavi also told his rival not to make public accusations about individuals’ reputations. And he said he felt sorry for the Iranian people who have suffered as a result of Ahmadinejad’s policies, which, he said, are marked by adventurism, extremism, and instability.

Musavi accused the incumbent of leading the country towards dictatorship, and said he entered the presidential race to help change Iran’s course.

The full text of the debate is available in Persian here.

-- Farangis Najibullah