The Corner

Mad about Ahmadinejad

Any guesstimates of public opinion coming out of Iran have to be taken with a large pinch of salt for reasons that should be too obvious to have to recite, but this analysis (via The Guardian) from Iran is interesting nonetheless:

“The popularity of Iran’s controversial leader, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is surging almost a year after he unexpectedly won closely contested presidential elections, Iranian officials and western diplomats said on Tuesday. Attributing his success to his populist style and fortnightly meet-the-people tours of the country, the sources said, as matters stand, Mr Ahmadinejad was the clear favourite to win a second term in 2009. The perception that the president was standing up to the US over the nuclear issue was also boosting his standing. “He’s more popular now than a year ago. He’s on the rise,” said Nasser Hadian-Jazy, a professor of political science at Tehran University. “I guess he has a 70% approval rating right now. He portrays himself as a simple man doing an honest job. He’s comfortable communicating with ordinary people.” While there are no reliable national opinion polls in Iran, western diplomats acknowledged that support for Mr Ahmadinejad is growing, defying widespread predictions after last June’s election that he would not last more than three months. “An indication of his power is the way he has whipped up public opinion on the nuclear energy issue,” a western diplomat said. “If there was an election today, he would win.” It was possible that Mr Ahmadinejad could become a liability to the government if Iran were taken to the UN security council, he added. “But I think in that situation, he gets stronger.”

Ahmadinejad may be a religious nutter, but he understands that nationalism (at its essence something that that is tribal, not ideological) trumps theocracy as something to unify a people any day, and that’s the game he’s playing, and he’s playing it well. The US needs to contemplate the real risk that any attack on Iran, a ‘real’ nation when compared to the shambles to its west, is more likely to unify that country than to divide it.

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