Is Bush’s pressure saving Ahmadinejad?

Washington has taken off the proverbial gloves with the Islamic Republic in recent weeks, naming and shaming Iran during the State of the Union and authorizing the U.S. military to kill or capture Iranian operatives in Iraq. All the while, Ahmadinejad, the man Bush would like to see out of office, isn’t doing so well ...

604415_ahmadinejad_16.jpg
604415_ahmadinejad_16.jpg

Washington has taken off the proverbial gloves with the Islamic Republic in recent weeks, naming and shaming Iran during the State of the Union and authorizing the U.S. military to kill or capture Iranian operatives in Iraq. All the while, Ahmadinejad, the man Bush would like to see out of office, isn't doing so well in the polls at home. 

But Ali Ansari, an Iran expert who spoke with FP last week, writes in the Guardian that all the aggressive overtures from Washington are actually saving Ahmadinejad from political irrelevance:

In the past few months the prices of most basic goods have risen, hurting the poor [Ahmadinejad] was elected to help. Moreover, far from investing Iran's oil wealth in infrastructure to create jobs, he announced recently that Iran's economy could support a substantially larger population, as if current unemployment was not a big enough problem.

Washington has taken off the proverbial gloves with the Islamic Republic in recent weeks, naming and shaming Iran during the State of the Union and authorizing the U.S. military to kill or capture Iranian operatives in Iraq. All the while, Ahmadinejad, the man Bush would like to see out of office, isn’t doing so well in the polls at home. 

But Ali Ansari, an Iran expert who spoke with FP last week, writes in the Guardian that all the aggressive overtures from Washington are actually saving Ahmadinejad from political irrelevance:

In the past few months the prices of most basic goods have risen, hurting the poor [Ahmadinejad] was elected to help. Moreover, far from investing Iran’s oil wealth in infrastructure to create jobs, he announced recently that Iran’s economy could support a substantially larger population, as if current unemployment was not a big enough problem.

Views such as these, along with his well publicised unorthodox religious convictions, have earned him the ridicule of political foes. What is more striking perhaps is the growing concern of those who should be considered his allies, especially in the parliament.[…]

Now, over the past weeks, with biting weather, shortages of heating fuel are further raising the political temperature, while his political opponents point to the burgeoning international crisis for which the globetrotting president seems to have no constructive answer. Talk has turned to impeachment.

Ironically, it is this very international crisis that may serve to save Ahmadinejad’s presidency, a reality that the president undoubtedly understood all too well. As domestic difficulties mount, the emerging international crisis could at best serve as a rallying point, or at worst persuade Iran’s elite that a change of guard would convey weakness to the outside world.

Carolyn O'Hara is a senior editor at Foreign Policy.

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