At the beginning of June last year, a thaw in Iranian-American relations looked increasingly likely. President Obama had been inaugurated less than five months earlier, promising the leaders of the Islamic Republic that America would "extend" its hand if the Iranians were willing to "unclench" their fists. Having been vilified as part of an "axis of evil" by the Bush administration, the Iranian leadership suddenly faced a harder time painting the United States, with its charismatic new president and his middle name of Hussein, as "the Great Satan". Obama even recognised Iran's right to enrich uranium, something the previous administration had refused to do.
In Iran, a similar political realignment was under way. The country not only faced staggering inflation and unemployment, but had had three sets of UN security council sanctions imposed on it since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took office. With two-thirds of its population under the age of 30 and pressing for more social freedoms, the incumbent president was by no means a popular candidate heading into the 2009 election.
In the final weeks of the campaign, the progressive-minded youth mobilised en masse to ensure that he would not be re-elected. As Mir Hossein Mousavi, the main reform candidate and eventual figurehead of the Green movement, put it just before election day, the atmosphere in the country was "similar to the first days after … the revolution".>>>
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