Marc Lynch wonders what happens if Ahmedinejad loses tomorrow:
I wonder if the regional impact of a Mousavi victory might be something else entirely -- strengthening Iranian "soft power" in the region. The Iranian election has already captivated the Arab public sphere -- it has been all over the headlines and the TV stations. I imagine that many of the Arabs who see democracy as an important and positive issue find this Iranian election inspiring (as they did Khatemi's 1997 campaign). The Arab public may regard a Mousavi victory as the same kind of opportunity to rethink relations with Iran as Obama's victory offered for relations with the United States. Arab leaders may find it harder to mobilize opposition to Iran with the seemingly reasonable Mousavi in office than with the cheerfully inflammatory Ahmedenejad.
If a "Mousavi Effect" could open a window of opportunity for Iranian public diplomacy and soft power, the big question -- just as it was for Obama -- would be whether Iran would use that moment to reinforce existing lines of conflict or to break them down. Could direct renewed Iranian soft power towards rebuilding strained relations with Arabs and overcoming the "moderate camp vs resistance camp" narrative preferred by Ahmedenejad (and by the Bush administration and key Arab leaders such as Hosni Mubarak)? How would the Obama administration respond to such an Iranian public diplomacy offensive? In the end, that may be more important than the nuclear question for the future of the region.
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