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Khatami Under Fire In Iran

Former Iranian president Mohammad Katami is being brought to trial in Iran for shaking hands with two Italian women on a recent trip to Italy. The goal is to ultimately strip him from rights to preach in mosques.

An Iranian religious tribunal will try former president Mohammad Khatami, a moderate Muslim cleric, and possibly ban him from preaching over a handhsake with two women during a recent trip to Italy. The court, which is charged to rule on crimes committed by clerics, will examine the lawsuit presented by a group of talabeh, theology students, from Mashhad, Iran's holiest city. Another lawsuit has also been filed by paramilitary militia Hezbollah, present in all major Iranian cities.

In a statement distributed to the press Wednesday, the clerics ask for Khatami's conviction for shaking "impure hands, contradicting the sacred principles of Islam" and compare the former president, who ruled from 1997 until 2005, to a "political prostitute."

First off, let's not get too enamored with the characterization of Khatami as a "moderate Muslim cleric." Relative to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khameini or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, he is perhaps less radical. But unless 'Death to America' is OK with you, let's not attach 'moderate' to him just yet.

Iran is what it is and its leaders remain radical. Perhaps to varying degrees, but moderate is not an adjective applicable. Period.

That said, his upcoming trial may present a unique opportunity. The 'back channels' should be quite busy now or soon, seeking to exploit the division to its fullest extent. If some measure of leverage avails itself, it should be seized.