On May 23, 1997, Iranian democracy worked. In a surprise to both the electorate and the international community, a little-known cleric named Mohammad Khatami resoundingly defeated the heavily-favored conservative candidate for the presidency of the Islamic Republic, Ali Akbar Nateq-Nouri. For the moment, the votes of the people had trumped the will of the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, who had supported Nateq-Nouri. With 70 percent of the votes in an election with 80 percent turnout, Khatami won a powerful popular mandate for his platform of restoring civil rule, easing social restrictions, liberalizing the economy, and improving Iran’s relations with the outside world. To begin his pursuit of this last priority, President Khatami appeared on CNN and called upon the people of the United States to reject cultural conflict and join the people of Iran in a “dialogue of civilizations.” Soon, many in the Clinton Administration—including President Clinton himself—came to recognize that Khatami represented the most credible partner for peace with the United States since the Islamic Revolution had ruptured relations.