A Thumpin' for Ahmadinejad

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Iran's rascal president discovers what he could have figured out from Americans six weeks ago—bellicose warmongering ain't the electoral gold people think it is.

Early results from last Friday's election suggested that his Sweet Scent of Service coalition [emphasis mine] had won just three out of 15 seats on the symbolically important Tehran city council, foiling Mr Ahmadinejad's plan to oust the mayor and replace him with an ally.

The outcome appeared to be mirrored elsewhere, with councils throughout Iran returning a majority of reformists and moderate fundamentalists opposed to Mr Ahmadinejad.

Compounding his setback was the success of Hashemi Rafsanjani, an influential pragmatist and fierce critic of the president's radical policies. Mr Rafsanjani—whom Mr Ahmadinejad defeated in last year's presidential election—received the most votes in elections to the experts' assembly, a clerical body empowered to appoint and remove Iran's supreme leader. By contrast, Ayatollah Mohammed-Taghi Mesbah-Yazdi, Mr Ahmadinejad's presumed spiritual mentor, came sixth.

The handsome fellow on the right is Tehran Mayor Mohammed Baqer Qalibaf, a possible candidate for the presidency, who racked up wins as Ahmadinejad crapped out. In a few years the Islamic Republic might replace a radical president who looks like Spencer Ackerman with a conservative-but-sane president who looks like William Hurt.

I don't know much more about Iran's electoral system, but in retrospect doesn't the week the president spent toasting guys like Robert Faurisson look like it would have been better spent, uh, campaigning?

NEXT: Standing Athwart History, Yelling "Looks Good to Me!"

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  1. Geez, now Weigel’s dissing even the Iranian conservatives. 😉

  2. No, highnumber, if you’re going to post that you have to misspell a few wurds:

    Weigal!

  3. This is good.

    Sweet Scent of Service???

  4. Funny….. I always thought “The handsome fellow on the right” is Santa Claus.

  5. Wow, so Iran is reforming on it’s own?

    Someone get me the president!

  6. A functioning middle east democracy? Perhaps Bush can urge others in the region to model themselves after Iran…

  7. So remind me- why do we consider Iran undemocratic again?

  8. Because the real power still lies with the clergy?

  9. ed’s got it right.

    There may indeed be a lot of reformers and moderates in other seats throughout the country, but as long as the Supreme Council remains, it will have the real power.

    Not even Ahmadinejad has that much power.

    There was a 1.5 hour+ doc on Discovery HD with Ted Koppel touring Iran. Aside from the stunning images of some of the architecture in full HD splendor, there was an awful lot of insight. There were quite a few influential people quite willing to call their President a foreign policy idiot (comparing him with Bush on that note), and a naive figurehead whose strings are being pulled by the Ayatollahs.

    It just so happens that this particular Iranian President is a large step backwards from the previous guy in presenting the face of Iran viz. reform and relations with non-Muslim nations.

    As ever, the Iranian people remain quite independent and complex as a society.

  10. This is horrible news. The Mossad must be behind this. Maybe George Soros too. I wouldn’t rule out Steven Spielberg either, I’ll have to ask Mel about that to be sure though.

    By the way, I was in the Klan a long time ago and I wish people would stop trying to tar me with that. I am a changed person. I only hate Jews now.

  11. So, when the Iranian president rants about destroying Israel or goes on about how Westerners should realize that liberal democracy has abjectly failed, he’s just a puppet of the hard-nosed pragmatists who would never do anything crazy like let him toss a nuke at someone. But if he’s losing support, suddenly he’s a politician with power and influence over his destiny who might just lose his job.

    Hrm.

  12. Eric-

    I think it may be more accurate to say that he doesn’t have any real power, and that since genuine reformers were barred from the election he doesn’t necessarily represent broader public opinion. He’s useful to somebody, but that could mean any number of things.

    And when his allies lose, it could mean that the public isn’t behind him, or it could mean that he’s an embarassment to somebody who is able to carefully manage an election. Or both.

    In other words, it’s an opaque situation where we can’t assume too much.

  13. I think Rove must have consulted for Ahmedinejad’s campaign. Only instead of demonizing “gay marriage”, he suggested the Jews.

  14. I dunno — I think Ahmadinejad is kinda sexy.

  15. sexy like herpes is.

  16. …like let him toss a nuke at someone.
    Actually, in the complex government of Iran, the president is not the commander in chief of the military. He only has the power to appoint the defense and intelligence ministers, and even then must seek approval from the Ayatollah. It is the Ayatollah who has control of the military and the intelligence apparatus. Besides that, Ahmedinejad has never been universally popular in Iran.

  17. That’s a great link tijjer, I hadn’t seen it mapped out like that before. Thanks…

  18. So let me get this straight: there’s an Assembly of Smart Guys, a Grand Poobah and a Minimum Leader. But who the hell is The Decider? Is it Mohammed? Please don’t say it’s Mohammed.

  19. The Iranian government is somewhat like what would happen if a group of evangelist preachers got together every now and then and list together a list of the candidates that could run for president. Only in that sense can Rafsanjani and his ilk be considered “moderate.” That’s like saying that Pat Robertson is “moderate” compared to Benny Hinn.

  20. ChrisO – that’s basically how republican presidential candidates get picked.

  21. It is a bad year for religious kooks eager for war, I guess. But I do pity Iran–it is truly a shame to see a once great nation in the palm of those enthralled with ancient Middle Eastern fairy tales.

    Good luck to them–and to all others similarly situated.

  22. Iran was great once?
    When?

  23. wise ass

    Perhaps you should change your first name.

    Signed,

    The Persians

  24. This is like Kremlinology – the Iranian President is important only because of what he tells us about the ayatollahs.

    Now, why would the ayatollahs have trotted out a raving anti-Semitic nutcase who is threatening all and sundry with nuclear weapons?

    I’m guessing not as a prelude to liberal democratic reform.

  25. Mr. A barely got elected, 49-51 I believe in fair elections with Broward County pushing him over the top– so he wasn’t just ‘trotted out’ and ran on a Chavez-like populist campaign primarily on domestic issues with the occasional Death to America for kicks…

  26. There is another side to this:

    Although true moderates and reformers were kept out of the election, the election was not completely rigged. Ahmadinejad was allowed to participate in the first round because nobody thought he could win. When he went to the second round, the Ayatollahs were as surprised as anybody else. He went up against a guy regarded as a “good old boy” close to the Ayatollahs. Ahmadinejad is indeed crazy, but he was not considered part of the clique.

    While there’s no denying that some of his support came from genuine religious or nationalist loonies, there were at least two other factors in play:

    1) Ahmadinejad was perceived as an outsider and hence less corrupt than the ruling clique.

    2) Ahmadinejad ran on a platform of economic populism.

    To whatever extent Ahmadinejad’s vote totals were accurate (and it’s at least plausible that any vote rigging would have been done with the goal of helping Rafsanjani, the “good old boy”), his victory probably reflected a desire to reject whatever awful choice the Ayatollahs put forward.

    Of course, the Iranians who did that cut off their noses to spite their faces.

  27. One thing that annoys me is that back when the relatively moderate Khatami was president, people arguing for a hard line on Iran would always point out that the president didn’t have the real power in that country, the mullahs did. For some reason, though, once Ahmadinejad was elected president, these same people suddenly acted as if the office of president were all-important, and every outrageous thing Ahmadinejad said becmae a new reasn to Bomb Iran Now…

  28. David,

    I think you overstate your case.

    ass,

    I agree with henry. Drop the “wise”. I have a feeling you think that Iran has been Muslim since time immemorial, that its borders have been static for centuries, they all speak Arabic as their first language, and they all look swarthy (like them A-rabs).

    Certainly there is no built-in animosity between the southern Gulf States and them boys up north.

  29. The country’s name was changed from Persia to Iran in 1935.

    So, again, when was Iran “great”?

  30. When it was called “Persia”. Things don’t stop existing just because you call them something different, you know.

  31. Or to put it another way: do you think that the statement “Hillary Clinton has never attended high school or university” is correct? (because, of course, she was called Hillary Rodham…)

  32. But don’t you know that Ahmadinejad is a quiet, peace-loving fellow who likes Jews?

    For a truly bizarre take on the “Tehranosaurus Rex of statesmen, Mahmoud the Tehranible” (who is only disliked because of a conspiracy of Zionists who secretly control the U.S. media) check out http://mathaba.net/news/?x=547346.

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