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Getting carried away
Apocalyptic assumptions about Ahmadinejad


September 5, 2006

TEL AVIV -- This morning, a pro Hezbollah news website, which is considered to be an Ahmadinejad ally, declared that on the Mahdi's birthday, which falls on 9th of September this year (Islamic date 15th of Sha'aban), Ahmadinejad is going to make a revelation to the world.

According to this source, Ahmadinejad will reveal a new scientific breakthrough for the treatment of the AIDS virus, something which Iranian scientists have been working on for the last two years.

This Mahdi related revelation follows the previous fanfare which was caused by August 22nd , the date Iran had chosen to deliver its reply to the EU nuclear package.

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal by the Islam expert Bernard Lewis, this date, coincided with the day in the Islamic calendar when Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven. It was also the same date when Jerusalem was liberated by Salahu'Din, the famous Islamic liberator.

So the press got completely carried away, and all sorts of apocalyptic assumptions were made.

The questions which must be asked are: does the world think that Ahmadinejad is so ignorant that he would choose such an obvious date to start world war? Also, despite all his bravado, has the world come to believe that Ahmadinejad is now the de facto ruler of Iran? The answer to both questions is a resounding no.

Yes Ahmadinejad is very conservative, and yes he does hold power in a number of extremely influential arenas in Iran's government, but no, he doesn't do everything as he pleases. He doesn't just wake up in the morning and just there and then decide on his own to threaten Israel with annihilation. Nor does he single-handedly decide on any day of his liking to send the price of oil shooting up by hinting that oil supplies could be cut if sanctions are imposed against Iran.

Ahmadinejad's actions, especially in the defence and nuclear arena are all strictly within the policies and guidelines of Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) which reports to Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei.

This important body has its own PR mechanism. When it seems that the West is not playing along to Iran's requests, it sends Ahmadinejad, the bad cop to make his hostile threats and gestures. In contrast, when delicate negotiations need to be carried out, the all smiling Ali Larijani, aka the Iraqi, (because he was born in Najaf) is sent to smooth things out.

Furthermore, Ahmadinejad's social and economic policies are also all formed and executed within a very sophisticated framework, which is overseen and approved by a number of governing bodies. Should these bodies not approve Ahmadinejad's policy, no matter how much he has invested in them, his plans will not materialise.

This happened recently. Reading the pro Ahmadinejad and pro Revolutionary Guards Iranian press, one could see that they were clearly advocating a policy of prolonged Hezbollah “struggle” against Israel.

The main goal of this policy was to sap Israel's resources and international credibility to the point where it would be too costly for Israel to engage Iran militarily. The Revolutionary Guards even started planning for this scenario. Realising that Hezbollah may need more fighters the Revolutionary Guard offered its soldiers $3000 a month to fight in Lebanon, and $20,000 to their families if they became martyred there.

However this line of thought was ultimately rejected by the SNSC. In the absence of Syria's army in Lebanon, Iran's hand was just too difficult to hide. The world, especially the EU who wants to see a stable Lebanon would have become more hostile against Iran, something which Iran can not afford right now. Iran needs the EU as a counterweight to US influence in the nuclear negotiations.

Should relations sour with Brussels over Lebanon, it would have meant sacrificing an immediate national issue (the nuclear program), over a foreign military mechanism, which is what Hezbollah is to Iran. Although this meant that Ahmadinejad's supporters had to suffer a climb down by agreeing with Resolution 1701, nevertheless it shows that Ahmadinejad and his inner circles are very much susceptible and sensitive to internal pressures.

This will continue to be the case for the foreseeable future, unless the Mahdi decides to throw the biggest birthday surprise of all time, by reappearing this Saturday, 9th of September 2006. Comment

Meir Javedanfar is an Iranian-born Middle East Analyst and the Director or the Middle East Economic and Political Analysis Company, He has been quoted and interviewed by the BBC, Radio Holland International, Haaretz Newspaper and the Boston Globe as well as a number of other newspapers and Radio stations. For rights to quote this article please contact

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