Ahmadinejad on the ropes

ATTA KENARE/AFP Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a man with enemies. But the grave warnings from the Bush administration are nothing compared to his domestic woes, says a new report from the International Crisis Group. The president and his allies received a drubbing at the recent municipal elections, and it’s not hard to see why. Ahmadinejad strode to power ...

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604192_ahmadinejad_020407_05.jpg

ATTA KENARE/AFP

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a man with enemies. But the grave warnings from the Bush administration are nothing compared to his domestic woes, says a new report from the International Crisis Group. The president and his allies received a drubbing at the recent municipal elections, and it's not hard to see why. Ahmadinejad strode to power with promises to tackle the bread-and-butter economic problems that afflict the country. As the ICG reports, however, his tough talk has "rattled civil servants and domestic entrepreneurs without triggering concrete change in government openness or accountability."

Though it seems his conservative alliance is cracking, Ahmadinejad can still play his trump card—the nuclear issue. Western pressure creates the useful impression that the Islamic Republic is under threat. The country unites behind the president, and internal disputes are forgotten. The only way to reform Iran, as Ray Takeyh and Vali Nasr argue, is to lay such saber-rattling aside, open the country up, and let domestic squabbles pry apart the conservative monopoly on power.

ATTA KENARE/AFP

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a man with enemies. But the grave warnings from the Bush administration are nothing compared to his domestic woes, says a new report from the International Crisis Group. The president and his allies received a drubbing at the recent municipal elections, and it’s not hard to see why. Ahmadinejad strode to power with promises to tackle the bread-and-butter economic problems that afflict the country. As the ICG reports, however, his tough talk has “rattled civil servants and domestic entrepreneurs without triggering concrete change in government openness or accountability.”

Though it seems his conservative alliance is cracking, Ahmadinejad can still play his trump card—the nuclear issue. Western pressure creates the useful impression that the Islamic Republic is under threat. The country unites behind the president, and internal disputes are forgotten. The only way to reform Iran, as Ray Takeyh and Vali Nasr argue, is to lay such saber-rattling aside, open the country up, and let domestic squabbles pry apart the conservative monopoly on power.

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