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I don't know whether you have been reading the various press accounts of the election campaign in Iran. I know that the candidates' list is fixed, but I can also see democratic spirit when it is bang in front of me. There appears to be a genuine fight for votes; and the images from the Mousavi rallies look more like Obama rallies than assemblies in a totalitarian state. Notice how young these people look, and how unafraid.

Does anyone doubt that if this kid of peaceful campaigning were happening in Iraq, it would be regarded as a sign of a nascent democracy? And, for what it's worth, Ahmadinejad increasingly looks desperate - the bribing of Red Iran doesn't seem as powerful right now as the rallying of Blue Iran. Check out the photos of a May Mousavi rally headlined by Khatami on this Iranian photo-blog, TehranLive.org. The blogger's description of the event:

As a symbolic gesture, the Saturday’s pro-Mousavi rally was held on the anniversary of Khatami’s first election victory in 1997 on May 23 the day dubbed as the day of reform movement in the Islamic republic. Iran’s former reformist president Mohammad Khatami on Saturday openly threw his weight behind ex-premier Mir Hossein Mousavi, who is contesting the June 12 presidential election. Speaking to thousands of young supporters at a rally in Tehran’s indoor Azadi (Freedom) sports stadium, Khatami said: “Stand up and do not miss this rare opportunity.”

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Now check out this video of a public clash between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi supporters in the streets of Tehran. It's vivid, electrifying stuff - not a sign of a brutal totalitarian regime. I know we have to be cautious and I know who holds the military power. But we should not be blind to change when it emerges. Ahmadinejad has discredited himself in the eyes of many Iranians. They are looking for change they can believe in. This is the target audience for Obama this Thursday. He needs to reach out to the democratic forces in that country and remind them that America is their ally.

Know hope.

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