- In-Country Power
- International Power
- Military Strength
- Special Skill: Pissing Off Planet
- Official Title: Former President
- Government: Theocracy
- Years Left in Office: To 2013; no consecutive re-election possible
- Political Classification: Extreme-right
- Education: PhD in Transportation Engineering & Planning
- Age: 62 (born October 28, 1956)
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Facts and Information
- Ahmedinejad is President of Iran, in his second and final term; therefore lame duck
- Ahmedinejad has made a name for himself internationally being a right-wing firebrand that, quite frankly, seems to relish pissing everyone off
- Due to international sanctions and poor management, Iran’s economy sucks, and Ahmedinejad is getting the blame
- Even though he is President, Ahmedinejad’s role is subservient to the Ayatollah Khamenie who wields true power over the state
- Ahmedinejad is losing popularity at home due to economy, and even lost support from Ayatollah because he let his ego get too big. Ayatollah no like.
A hush falls over the crowded venue as the speaker falters—he looks out over the sea of faces, sensing himself being encased in a bubble of light, a spiritual essence enveloping him, the holiest of the holies—later he would say, “they were astonished as if a hand held them there and made them sit”. No, this isn’t Tom Cruise. Or even Psy. It was Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, current President of Iran, which makes it all the more creepier.
This was in 2005, just after A-Bomb’s election as President of Iran. Since then he has become the poster child for the sheer lunacy of his public proclamations, his vehement anti-Israeli policies, and as figurehead of a potential maybe possible probably not nuclear Iran which evokes shrieks from across the political spectrum akin to a horny cat climbing up a chalkboard in Hell. We all know him as that “fucking crazy guy running Iran”, inheritor of an anti-Western attitude which began with the supremo Ayatollah Assahollah himself, Khomeini and if Ben Affleck can best those bastards then, by gum, we can, too, right?
But who is this super-freak? Born in 1956 to a lower class, blue-collar family, he grew up in the rough-and-tumble Southside of Tehran, a hotbed of poverty and activism during the waning years of the Shah’s regime, and known for its religious conservatism. During the mid-1970s, with revolution stirring amongst all parts of the Iranian population, he studied engineering at Elm-o Sanaat University which had become a base for youth activists working to topple the Shah and he promptly became embroiled in Islamic activism there. In the immediate wake of the 1979 Revolution he became leader of a student solidarity group established as a counter to the Marxist Mujehaddin-e-Khalq and was instrumental in purging and punishing those seen as deviating from the Khomeinist line during the early 1980s. Rumors abound about this part of his life, all of which have been largely debunked: he was never a member of the Revolutionary Guards and played no role in the siege of the US Embassy. His name has been attached to much nefarious shit, all of which is questionable.
Despite this lack of sinister awesome, it’s important to see this period as formative in A-Bomb’s approach to international politics writ large: this was a period dominated by Khomeini and the Iranian Revolution against the Western-backed Shah as well as the Iraqi invasion of Iran which sparked an eight-year war (also U.S.-sponsored). It is thus no real surprise that his world view of global politics has become as it is.
After a mediocre career in the civil service in various capacities throughout the 1980s and 1990s serving as governor of various Iranian provinces, he lost his job when reformist Prez Khatami purged local governments of conservative elements though he did get his PhD in transportation engineering in 1997 and began teaching.
It was his election as mayor of Tehran in 2003 that cemented his prominent role in Iranian politics. Coming during a period of liberalization of the Iranian political scene and cultural life in general, Ahmedinejad’s tenure as mayor was welcomed by the more conservative elements of Iranian society who applauded his shutdowns of Western restaurants and anything betraying a linkage with Western culture. Religiously, the sexes were segregated, or at least he tried this, it never really pans out the way they want it to. Facial hair was mandatory; those of questionable masculinity who were unable to grow full and satisfactory beards fed the burgeoning “chin-wig” industry in Iran. It was for this socially conservative approach to governance that the conservative religious class in Iran threw its weight behind Ahmadinejad’s bid for the Iranian presidency in 2005. During the election campaign, Ahmadinejad ran on a platform of social and economic populism appealing to rural and lower class portions of the population combined with a strident and often ridiculous anti-Western rhetoric, completely counter to the outgoing Prez Khatami. Pulling a W., Ahmadeinejad projected himself as a simple-minded yuckster, the everyman-as-potential-president, and, by gum, it worked!
He won by a landslide. His first presidential victory marked him as a close ally of the conservative religious folk who same as Their Guy. The common folk also saw him as Their Mr. Smith Goes to Tehran: he eschewed the fancy-pants accoutrements of presidential power in various ways (American equivalents would be like Obama moving out of the White House and flying coach instead of Air Force One). Like his adversary, W., Ahmadinejad continued to play the part of gracious yokel idiot, much to the amusement of real politicians in Iran who mocked him continuously. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
His confrontational approach to international relations quickly turned nuclear. Now, in the beginning, for Iranian political and scientific circles, the issue of nuclear power was a simple one: everyone should be able to use it domestically for domestic purposes, power production, medical stuff, etc., but this quickly turned political with the vehemence with which the Bush administration criticized and then began to openly threaten Ahmadinejad’s Iran. For Iran, the issue in the beginning was much more about access to modern technologies and the denial of this than anything else. It was Ahmadinejad who quickly turned this into a global security shitstorm.
Why? Because his protestations that the Iranian nuclear program is peaceful (and there still isn’t any evidence that it isn’t), his combative, loud-mouthed vehemence against US interference and especially the issue of Israel/Palestine has soured whatever legitimate grievances he might have been raising. This ran counter to the prevailing view within Iran’s religious and political circles which favored gradual engagement with the West and a compromise over nuclear power. Recall that Khameini himself had approved a letter sent to the Bush administration in 2005 setting out a compromise plan and an offer for negotiations well before the current, mind-numbing series of events occurred. Bush’s administration, naturally, rejected this offer, made just before the Iranian elections.
His often misquoted snippet about erasing Israel to the side, it is not difficult to see that he bears Israel an intense amount of ill-will for whatever reason. This did much to cement the international view of him as a sort of better-dressed Kim Jong Il. A madman and anti-Semite. However, it is important to keep in mind that he is by no means representative of the Iranian political system, or even the views of Khameini himself. Indeed the rivalry and disagreements between them emerged around this time.
After his election he continued his same weird brand of domestic conservativeness, sending his minions out in search of Western music and trying to crack down on the use of satellite TV which allowed the poisonous views of the rest of the world to trickle in. To effect this, he utilized basij militias, shadowy organizations who work as a sort of morality police, though the extent of his actual leverage of them is highly debated. The basij went after women not properly veiled, student protestors and so and so forth. Protests against his regime grew in fervor as his first term went on, since many of his economic policies largely failed to stem rising inflation and the oil-rich state had to actually import gasoline which is just stupid, right? All this led into the 2009 elections, with Iran increasingly isolated internationally and beginning to feel the effects of this economically as sanction after sanction were slapped on the collective Iranian backside by the Bush administration’s spankings. Running against Ahmadinejad was reformist politician Mir-Hussein Mousavi, who went after the sitting Prez’s economic failures and his sad-sack international standing. These elections had a monstrous turnout, 85%, but initial results saw Ahmadinejad again emerging as the victor. This only further invigorated the domestic opposition to him and his policies, with calls for a recount being made by Mousavi and his supporters and running student street protests numbering in the hundreds of thousands to the millions breaking out in Tehran. Ahmadinejad pooh-poohed these moves against his authority and began cracking down with glee on the opposition, politicians and protestors alike. The government oppression eventually caused the opposition’s protests to peter out due to its increasing ubiquity and violence, but the Iranian political scene was deeply divided and a number of religious conservatives even publicly called the election results into question.
This was the moment when the real divisions within the Iranian government came to the fore. The schism between supporters of Ahmadinejad and Mousavi was one thing, but the internal friction is even more telling as to the state of Iranian affairs. Now, internal Iranian politics are tricky and complex, but the basic situation at the time was this: conservative religious figures, eventually openly, overtly backed by Khameini were very worried by the growing pre-dominance of hardline supporters of Ahmadinejad—let me rephrase that for clarity’s sake: conservatives were freaked out about the influence of ultra-conservatives, especially since parliamentary elections were coming up in 2011. Also, the presidential election this year had to be kept out of the hands of a hardline Ahmadinejad supporter. One could compare this to the Republican party right here in the US: Tea Party wackos are by no means blindly accepted as legitimate conservative voices by many Republicans. In Iran, the issue is the amount of religious influence and say in the running of the government which Ahmadinejad had quietly been subsuming by supporting hardcore militias and Revolutionary Guardsmen that were staunch backers of his government.
These disagreements came to the forefront when Khameini began interfering in Ahmedinejad’s candidates for cabinet posts and other positions in the government. Although these frictions can be papered over relatively easily, the tension is still there. We can break it down simply thus: Ahmadinejad has a constituency grounded in the rural, poor, and disenfranchised; his conservative opponents are urban, educated, and very much the intelligentsia, religious or political, in Iran. In addition to this social division, there is also the matter of international affairs, especially the nuclear issue. With Khameini having issued a fatva decreeing nuclear weapons against Islam and consistently maintaining that Iran’s nuclear research is for peaceful purposes , the last few years have seen a growing split amongst conservatives over Ahmadenejad’s approach to this problem, especially because Western sanctions are crippling, no, devastating the Iranian economy, especially for the middle and lower classes. The state-run media and former supporters of the president began publicly questioning his approach to negotiations with the US and Europe. The vagaries and backs-and-forths over this issue are complicated as hell and can’t be summarized very easily, but suffice to say that the very lack of consensus in Iran over how to approach this issue at all is reflected in this outright criticism of Ahmadinejad’s nuke policies. While Khameini and co. by no means support nuclear weapons, they also don’t support giving in blindly to Western demands which Iran has had a comfy little history of not doing.
All of this might seem moot, since his term is up this year and he can’t run for re-election. But in future retrospect, his tenure as president of Iran marked the country out as an important player on the geostrategic stage and highlighted the negative persistence of right-leaning extremist political approaches. The precedents Ahmadinejad has set as far as the domestic, youthful opposition, social and moral values, and most especially, the nuclear issue, are problems that his successor will struggle to find solutions for, picking up the pieces of the mess that has been left for him.
How seriously is he taken amongst Iranians? He has certainly garnered a healthy dose of support amongst certain elements of the population for his economic policies and the perception of him as a staunch bulwark against the West, but let’s, in closing, return to his mystical experience of 2005 which prompted a highly-regarded ayatollah to quip “carrying out promises and restraining from fooling people is the most important duty”. ‘Nuff said.
Plaidcasts Involving this Leader
- A Persian in Arab Lands: Game-Changer…or just a Game? Feb 6, 2013
- The Bear Further Embraces the Dragon Jun 5, 2012
- The GCC: the Arab Power Place to Be! Apr 1, 2012
- Election Rejection!!! Mar 5, 2012
- Syrian Situation Squeezing Iran Feb 17, 2012
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