Iran's just re-elected president, Mohammad Khatami, has announced sweeping goals for change and has tersely warned his conservative religious foes to stay out of his way. He's calling for broader freedoms, more accountable judicial authorities and a better climate for foreign investment.
Brave talk, but we've heard it all before - back in 1997 when Khatami was first elected. Even though Khatami shows more confidence in his agenda now than he did then, proof still must come in actions, not words.
So far Khatami's reforms can go no further than Iran's fundamentalist Islamic religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, will permit. The ayatollah holds the real balance of power over parliament, courts, media, armed forces and foreign policy.
Back during the Reagan-era Iran-Contra scandal Oliver North learned the hard way that there's no such thing as an Islamic moderate in the Islamic republic.
The U.S. national security community still believes that, which is why the Washington-based Center for Security Policy wisely warns that it would be a grave mistake for the United States to construe Khatami's re-election as other than "a continuation of the good cop-bad cop routine" that has denied the Iranian people the real political and economic reforms they yearn for and which perpetuates the threat Iran poses to the U.S. and our friends and interests around the world.