September 15, 2011


Ahmadinejad's impotence (Geneive Abdo, September 14, 2011, Foreign Policy)

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad meant to kick off his annual visit to the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York with the grand gesture of releasing two U.S. hikers held captive for over a year. Instead, he was humiliated in public by Iran's powerful judiciary, which stated on Wednesday that the president could not fulfill that promise.

Nothing could more clearly symbolize Ahmadinejad's fading fortunes. Gone is the self-confident rhetorician of revolutionary outrage and nationalist fervor. In his place stands a broken man. The hikers' episode is only one more piece of evidence that the last eight months have proven to be the beginning to the end of the president's political career. Ahmadinejad's U.N. speech will probably be as loquacious as ever, and may contain interesting surprises -- such as his declaration last year that it was the United States Government which launched the terrorist attacks on 9/11. But his words should not be taken as a message from anyone other than Ahmadinejad.

Even before the judiciary embarrassed Ahmadinejad, many in Tehran doubted that the president would be allowed to travel to the U.N. General Assembly to deliver the official speech on September 22. The institutions and political elites which once formed the bedrock of his power have all left him, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, commanders in the Islamic Revolutionary Guards, the intelligence minister, and important conservative clerics. The president has challenged the authority and legitimacy of supreme clerical rule, and he cast doubt on the divine attributes of the clergy -- without which the Islamic Republic could not exist in anything like its present form. At this point, it is unclear whether Ahmadinejad will even be allowed to finish out his term.

Posted by at September 15, 2011 7:26 AM

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