Why Ahmadinejad Should Be Heard

By Meir Javedanfar

To the outside world, and to many people in Iran, the post-election demonstrations and ensuing violence have damaged the legitimacy of the ruling regime in Tehran, both domestically and externally.

In fact, judging by the number of demonstrations planned to be held against him in New York, the Iranian President stands to receive the most unfriendly welcome he has ever received abroad.

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But Mahmoud Ahmadinejad doesn't see it that way. As far as Ahmadinejad and his supporters are concerned, on Sept. 23 he will be addressing the United Nations General Assembly as the President of a Super Power.

Such thinking was reflected by Mojtaba Hashemi Samare, Ahmadinejad's right-hand man and most senior advisor, who compared Iran's latest proposal to the U.S to Obama's proposal for a new arms reduction treaty. The current Iranian administration truly and honestly sees itself as a power that can address and challenge global issues with the world's one remaining super power.

Some people may dismiss such thinking. Others may compare it to delusions of grandeur by an administration presiding over a country facing one of its worst crises in the last three decades. However, if we look back at Ahmadinejad's life, especially during his childhood and early twenties, we can see why he does not see things this way.

Persistence is one of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's strongest attributes. He has always seen himself as a person who can push the boundaries of reality to achieve what he wants. This has been shown on a number of occasions. A famous example took place 30 years ago, prior to the takeover of the U.S embassy in Tehran, where Ahmadinejad was one of the planners. Although he was anti-American, Ahmadinejad's hatred for the Soviets was even more intense. He saw the communist ideology as heretical and the Soviets as a colonizing power which stood against the Islamic world.

Relations between Ahmadinejad and his colleagues soon deteriorated, as the young and zealous Ahmadinejad pushed his colleagues to take over the Soviet Embassy as well. In fact, he wanted the takeover at both embassies to be simultaneous. His colleagues refused profusely. They thought that unlike the U.S, the Soviets shared a border with Iran. This would make it much easier for them to exact a military revenge. Moscow, already at war in neighboring Afghanistan, wasn't afraid to flex its regional muscle.

But Ahmadinejad would not have any of it. He saw Iran as a super power in its own right. His thinking was that the Soviets would not dare attack Iran, and if they did, his country would be able to take on the aggressors. Despite repeated opposition, the persistent Ahmadinejad would not give up his protests, even after he had lost the argument. This is why he did not take part in the takeover of the U.S embassy. His refusal was his method of protestation against those who did not back his idea of invading the Soviet embassy.

In terms of his outlook, Ahmadinejad has not changed over the last 30 years. He still stubbornly believes in revolutionary Iran as a super power, and as a force to stand up against the U.S. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei - a staunch supporter of Ahmadinejad in both 2005 and 2009 - shares the President's world vision.

And Khamenei has more reason to back Ahmadinejad this year than ever before. With trouble brewing at home, the Supreme Leader feels vulnerable. Throughout the years, Khamenei has believed that offense is the best defense. His protégé Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is carrying out his own thinking through his verbal attacks against the Holocaust. Meanwhile, his subordinates at the Revolutionary Guard provide support to groups such as Hezbollah, Hamas and according to a recent report, the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Not since the Iran-Iraq War has there been a time when the Iranian government has had to so defend itself internally. Khamenei's hope is that by having a president who acts and believes that Iran is a super power, Barack Obama may back off. 

Ahmadinejad's words at the United Nations this week should therefore not be dismissed too quickly. They are a valuable reflection into the thinking of a regime that could soon become a nuclear power. On the contrary, President Ahmadinejad's words should serve as a blueprint for how a nuclear Iran might behave.

Meir Javedanfar is an Iranian-Israeli Middle East analyst and a regular contributor to RealClearWorld. He is co-author of The Nuclear Sphinx of Tehran: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the State of Iran.

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