The story quoted Larijani at a press conference in Manama, Bahrain, as saying, "We are leaning more in favor of Barack Obama because he is more flexible and rational."
My immediate reaction was surprise, knowing Tehran's policy that "the yellow dog is the brother of the jackal." If true, it would have played into the hands of the McCain campaign.
AFP, however, got the story wrong. The Iranian ILNA agency reported, almost verbatim, what Larijani said at the press conference. According to its transcript, when asked which of the two U.S. presidential candidates is better for Iran, Larijani said: "This is an internal issue for the Americans. Still, Obama's words sound somewhat more rational. But I still believe that Americans should show themselves by their deeds rather than their words."
Not exactly an endorsement.
There are two points worth mentioning here. First, the yellow dog-jackal analogy probably still holds. When Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad was asked in an interview with Larry King in September, he said, "No, we do not have any preference of any sort because we believe these are issues relating to the internal affairs of the United States."
And in a rare commentary in September, the official Iranian news agency, IRNA, noted, "Both U.S. presidential candidates have similar positions on Iran because both of them are following long-term U.S. strategic policies formulated by experienced policymakers."
Second, many Iranians believe that everything in the world happens just to weaken their country -- the other side of that coin is that they think that their country has a disproportionate influence on international politics.
Take the hostage crisis of 1979-81. In early 1981, when the 52 U.S. diplomats held hostage for 444 days were released, there was speculation, without much evidence, that Tehran had delayed their release in order not to help incumbent President Jimmy Carter win against his Republican contender Ronald Reagan.
We'll never know if the hostage crisis influenced Carter's failure to be reelected; just like we'll never know whether an endorsement of either candidate by Iran would influence the preferences of U.S. voters.
-- Abbas Djavadi