Sunday, October 21, 2007

How powerful is Ahmadinejad?

It is often said that Ahmadinejad's statements, especially about Israel and the Holocaust are not the important focus of attention regarding Iran because Ahmadinejad actually does not have much power. Ahmadinejad really does not have a lot of power. For example, he could not have accepted Larijani's resignation without Khameini's approval.

But the Iran experts who say he is a figurehead, while making a true statement are conceding a point they probably shouldn't concede and to some degree ignoring that while Ahmadinejad is not nearly the most powerful figure in Iranian politics the positions he expouses have the support of a broad consensus of Iranian society in Iran and the societies of all of the Muslim countries in the region.

You've come across the controversy about "wiped off the map". Ahmadinejad's actual view, that justice for the Palestinians, including the refugees is more important than there being a Jewish state is agreed with by almost everybody in the Middle East.

Palestinians being allowed to return and then voting for a state that does not have any Jewish advantage it considered the optimal outcome of the conflict by essentially everybody in the Middle East. If that happens, the Zionist regime of Israel will be removed from history the way the Soviet Union and the Shah were.

That's what Ahmadinejad called for. Ahmadinejad does not make Iranian policy, but everyone in Iran, including the Supreme Leader agree with that.

To the Holocaust, Ahmadinejad says that the Palestinians are paying the price and the West won't answer why. He says the Western policy of at least shaming and even imprisoning people who argue against a particular conclusion is unscientific and hypocritical. But he does not say the Holocaust did not happen or that only a small number of people were killed or anything of that sort. Once again, the Supreme Leader and essentially everyone in the Middle East agrees with what Ahmadinejad really believes.

You may believe Ahmadinejad claims or has claimed the Holocaust did not happen. He never did. So while Ahmadinejad does not have the power to impose his view on the Holocaust on Iranian society, Iranian society, like the rest of the Middle East, already agrees with him and has agreed with his position since before he was born.

On to enrichment. Iran believes it has a right to enrich uranium domestically. It has strong legal arguments and there are precedents of a lot of other countries that are allowed to enrich domestically. The clincher is that the US supported the Shah in enriching uranium. Ahmadinejad does not support a moratorium on enrichment imposed by the West. Ahmadinejad does not have the power to make his position the position of the State of Iran, but essentially everyone in Iran already agrees with his position.

It is a true fact the Ahmadinejad is not a critical power in Iran. That without support from his superiors he can accomplish essentially nothing. But people who make that argument miss two points - one that Ahmadinejad's views can be presented as reasonable if the presenter does not have an anti-Iranian or pro-Zionist agenda and two that Ahmadinejad's actual views are somewhere between very popularly and unanimously held in Iran and throughout the Middle East. Including in Iran's true power structure.

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