As the Iranian parliamentary elections of March 2008 approached, many Iranians wondered nostalgically: If a reformist had won the 2005 presidential election instead of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, would Iran be in its current dismal state? For Abdollah Ramezanzadeh, a former government spokesperson, Iran's situation is "worse today that it has ever been over the past 50 years." And for many Iranian opposition leaders, as well as much of the Western media and political class, Ahmadinejad is the main culprit of Iran's ills today: censorship, corruption, a failing economy, the prospect of a U.S attack.

But this analysis is incorrect, if only because it

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