Middle East

Is Ahmadinejad Trying To Pull Off A May Surprise?


Kamal Nazer Yasin

ust when you thought it was impossible for Iranian politics to get any murkier, controversy has erupted over whether President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made a gesture during a recent visit to Switzerland to signal his interest in normalizing relations with the United States.

A report by the Persian-language service of the German media outlet Deutsche Welle on April 26 stated that during a mid-April meeting with Switzerland’s president, Hans-Rudolf Merz, Ahmadinejad expressed a desire to enlist Swiss help in normalizing relations with Iran’s long-time enemy, the United States.

“The Swiss president wrote in his notes: ’Ahmadinejad said that Iran was unhappy with the state of [Iranian-US] relations and wished to see it changed,’” according to the Deutsche Welle report as republished in a Swiss newspaper. “Ahmadinejad added that he was hopeful things would change. He said that if [US President Barack] Obama wanted, he could undertake that change. The change must occur, according to Ahmadinejad, in [the near future], since it would be much more difficult to do later. Ahmadinejad asked that the message be sent to Washington.”

On April 30, however, the semi-official Iranian Student News Agency issued a report quoting presidential adviser Ali-Akbar Javanfekr as steadfastly denying that Ahmadinejad had made any such comments to Merz. For good measure, Javanfekr derided the Deutche Welle report as a “Zionist scenario.”

But earlier, Ali Fallahian, the hardline former intelligence minister, appeared to lend credence to the idea that Ahmadinejad was exploring a diplomatic initiative toward the Untied States. “If Ahmadinejad can — through an efficacious use of diplomacy, and without loss to our national interest — foster a change in the behavior of the Americans or in the bilateral relations, so that, for instance, sanctions are lifted, then he can win the [June 12 presidential] election without any other contributing factors,” Fallahian was quoted as saying by the Fars news agency.

If his rhetoric in recent days is any indication, Ahmadinejad does not appear inclined to mend ties with the United States, nor the West in general. During an April 30 trip to the Iranian city of Shiraz, Ahmadinejad characterized the Western democratic political tradition as based on “sheer lies,” according to a report distributed by the IRNA news agency.

At a UN anti-racism conference, dubbed Durban II and held in Geneva, Ahmadinejad made a spectacle of himself by making what some diplomats characterized as a “hate speech.” In his conference comments, Ahmadinejad alleged that Zionism “personifies racism,” going on to accuse Western states of encouraging the establishment of a “totally racist government in occupied Palestine.”

Experts see Ahmadinejad’s recent behavior as linked in part to Iranian domestic politics. Ahmadinejad is seeking reelection on June 12, and the recent verbal bashing of Israel, the United States and the European Union is seen by some as motivated by a desire by the president to bolster his support among conservatives.

Ahmadinejad remains the favorite to win the election, but he had proven to be a highly divisive figure domestically this campaign season. He retains the support of the two most powerful institutions in Iran — the office of the Supreme Leader and the Revolutionary Guards. In addition, he exerts control over key mass media outlets. But many influential conservative political organizations have proven reluctant to back him.

The level of disarray among right-wing groups heading into an election is perhaps at its highest level in the era of the Islamic republic. “There are many [groups] in which the leaders are working in one campaign headquarter while rank-and-file members work in another. . . . The hard reality is that no political [group] has so far been able to reach a consensus,” said a recent commentary published in the newspaper Tehran Emrouz, which is published under the auspices of Tehran’s moderate conservative mayor.


Editor’s Note: Kamal Nazer Yasin is a pseudonym for a freelance journalist specializing in Iranian affairs.

Copyright (c) 2003 Open Society Institute. Reprinted with the permission of the Open Society Institute, 400 West 59th Street, New York, NY 10019 USA, wwwEurasiaNet.org. or www.soros.org.

About the author / 


Leave a reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

jga bookreview

jga bookreview


jga bookreview

jga bookreview

jga bookreview

jga bookreview

jga bookreview

jga bookreview

jga bookreview


  • New Issue is Out Now!

    Vol. IV | No. V – October-November-December 2018 To Download the Magazine Click Here… CONTENTS 04-06…..World News by Furkan Sahin  08-20…..Terrorism in Syria and Beyond: An Interview with Prof. Alain Gabon by Dr. Rahman Dag 22-24…..Erdogan’s Best Shot is Still in the West by Dr. Murat Ulgul 26-30…..Raqqa vs Kobani – Terrorism vs Revolution by Dr. Rahman Dag 32-34…..Future of…

  • Domestic Politics and the Design of International Institutions

    Abstract Scholars are increasing focused on how and why states design international institutions. International relations theories have historically guided research on these institutions, but have not provided adequate insights into the theoretical bases for their design. Rationalists’ theories of domestic politics offer an alternative approach to understanding institutional design. This study utilizes the positive theory…

  • Five generations after the Balfour Declaration: How do Palestinians Resist and Engender Significant Social Change?

    How to Cite: SELLICK, P. (2018), Five generations after the Balfour Declaration: How do Palestinians Resist and Engender Significant Social Change?. Journal of Conlicft Transformation and Security, 6(2): 139–142. The context of Israeli expansion and Palestinian dispossession Over the past year, a series of anniversaries has occurred which marks the progressive dispossession and displacement of the Palestinians….

  • CESRAN International named the World’s #83 “Best Independent Think Tank”

    CESRAN International is pleased to announce that it has been named the world’s number 83 “Best Independent Think Tank”. The ranking was announced in the 2017 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report compiled by the University of Pennsylvania’s Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program (TTCSP) at the Lauder Institute. CESRAN International was also ranked 77th among the “Top Environment…

  • The Current State of AI as We Begin 2018

    Artificial intelligence (AI) states one recent article is no smarter than a six-year-old. A study that appeared last summer compared the intelligence quotient (IQ) of Google, Apple, Baidu, and Bing AI to the average human 18, 12, and 6-year-olds. The 6-year-old’s IQ was rated at 55.5 while the 12 and 18-year-olds rated 84.5 and 97.0 respectively. The end result rated…