Do we have Ahmadinejad all wrong?

Reza Aslan writes:

Is it possible that Iran’s blustering president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, long thought to be a leading force behind some of Iran’s most hard-line and repressive policies, is actually a reformer whose attempts to liberalize, secularize, and even “Persianize” Iran have been repeatedly stymied by the country’s more conservative factions? That is the surprising impression one gets reading the latest WikiLeaks revelations, which portray Ahmadinejad as open to making concessions on Iran’s nuclear program and far more accommodating to Iranians’ demands for greater freedoms than anyone would have thought. Two episodes in particular deserve special scrutiny not only for what they reveal about Ahmadinejad but for the light they shed on the question of who really calls the shots in Iran.

In October 2009, Ahamdinejad’s chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, worked out a compromise with world power representatives in Geneva on Iran’s controversial nuclear program. But the deal, in which Iran agreed to ship nearly its entire stockpile of low enriched uranium to Russia and France for processing, collapsed when it failed to garner enough support in Iran’s parliament, the Majles.

According to a U.S. diplomatic cable recently published by WikiLeaks, Ahmadinejad, despite all of his tough talk and heated speeches about Iran’s right to a nuclear program, fervently supported the Geneva arrangement, which would have left Iran without enough enriched uranium to make a nuclear weapon. But, inside the often opaque Tehran government, he was thwarted from pursuing the deal by politicians on both the right and the left who saw the agreement as a “defeat” for the country and who viewed Ahmadinejad as, in the words of Ali Larijani, the conservative Speaker of the Majles, “fooled by the Westerners.”

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6 thoughts on “Do we have Ahmadinejad all wrong?

  1. Lysander

    I read variations of this theme all the time. That some faction or other thought that the Geneva deal, whereby Iran would ship it’s leu to France and one year later the west would honestly keep it’s end of the bargain and give Iran the TRR fuel.

    The fact that the west rejected any idea of simultaneous swap or trading in a neutral country to guarantee the transaction should tell you all you need to know.

    If Iran had taken that deal, it would have lost it’s leu, not gotten it’s TRR fuel (without additional concessions) and would have little prospect of making the fuel herself. Any Iranian leader who got suckered would see his political career crash around him.

    I’d like to think that it would not take “hardliners” to see the drawbacks of such a deal. That anybody with a brain would see through this obvious scam.

    And indeed even Musavi attacked the deal.

  2. delia ruhe

    Isn’t this what Trita Parsi and the Leveretts have been trying to make us understand since the Iran election fiasco? (and probably even earlier, but I wasn’t listening as well back then).

  3. Christopher Hoare

    Bearing in mind the sources of our knowledge of the man (CIA, Israel, various European agencies, and of course a totally unreliable media) it is quite probable that we have previously been sold a bill of goods. This is certainly information against which the anti-Iran propaganda should be weighed.

    The West has a fundamental misunderstanding of anyone who does not share its conventional worldview. With the wit to understand that while worldviews differ none of them can be said to portray reality when looking beyond its own parameters, we can recognize that we only half-understand everything that goes on in the world. If that much. To be fair, I doubt that people from other cultures understand western ideas and values exactly — but let’s not use such thoughts to excuse our dreadful treatment of them — whenever it suits us.

    I recall Ahmadinejad gave a Christmas message to the West a few years back, and it made a lot more sense that the blather put out by the Queen and George Bush. As the article goes on to say — his ‘wiping Israel from the map’ means a different thing in English that it does in the original Farsi. As for his periodic haranguing of the UN, holding different and opposing views does not make a man a fool.

  4. Norman

    Comments here, are food for thought. Considering the performance of the past decade, up to the present, If Iran achieves the Bomb, that would leave Israel what? It would no longer be the bully in the sand box, would have to come to terms with its neighbors, the present government would cease to exist, or, heaven forbid, perish in a fireball.

  5. godfree roberts

    The real reasons why Iran must be destroyed:
    1. Iran has lots of oil (#3 in the world)
    2. Iran has lots of gas (#2 in the world)
    3. Iran sells oil and gas for currencies other than dollars (the unforgivable sin)
    4. Iran is a democracy (everyone votes; everyone cares)
    5. Iran has an independent foreign policy (supports Hezbollah, Hamas)
    6. Iran is an ancient culture (3,000 years, Persian)
    7. Iran is Muslim. (worse: it’s Shiite, like Iraq)
    8. Iran controls the Strait of Hormuz (through which the oil flows)
    9. Iran is hosting Muqtada Al-Sadr
    10. Iran won the Iraq war and Iraqi’s friendship (Ali Sistani is Iranian)
    11. Iran is the most admired country in the Middle East (88%)
    12. Iran can defend itself (tougher and more united than even the Iraqis)

  6. Bandolero

    From my point of view, the news in this story is not so much the content.

    As delia correctly noted everyone who wanted to know could have known this long before, by just reading blogs like that of the Leveretts. And think again, why leftist like Chavez align with Ahmadinejad – much more than they are aligned with his predecessors.

    From my point of view, the real news here is, that this story is presented now by the Atlantic, the distinguished zionist mouthpiece of Jeffrey Goldberg and the like.

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