The Show is Over

The rise and fall of Ahmadinejad


The Show is Over
by Karim Sadjadpour

While Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s demagoguery and Holocaust revisionism on the world stage have earned him alarmist comparisons to Adolf Hitler, his recent, ignoble fall from grace reveals the Iranian president for what he really is: the dispensable sword of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The marriage of Khamenei and Ahmadinejad should be understood in the context of Iran’s internal rivalries. Since the death in 1989 of the revolution’s father, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini — whose austere nature and anti-Americanism set the tenor for Iran’s post-monarchic order — Tehran’s political elite has been broadly divided into two schools.

Reformists and pragmatists argued that ensuring the Islamic Republic’s survival required easing political and social restrictions and prioritizing economic expediency over ideology. Hard-liners, led by Khamenei, believed that compromising on revolutionary ideals could unravel the system, just as perestroika did the Soviet Union.

Given the youthful Iranian public’s desire for change, Khamenei seemed to have lost the war of ideas by the early 2000s.

No one anticipated that his saving grace would arrive in the person of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the hitherto unknown mayor of Tehran.

Ahmadinejad’s pious populism resonated among Iran’s working classes, and his revolutionary zeal and willingness to attack Khamenei’s adversaries endeared him to the supreme leader, whose backing of Ahmadinejad in the 2005 presidential election proved decisive. The balance of power between the two was exhibited during Ahmadinejad’s inauguration, when the new president prostrated himself before Khamenei and kissed his hand.

Under the supreme leader’s approving gaze, Ahmadinejad’s first term as president was spent bludgeoning Khamenei’s domestic opponents, taking a hard line on the nuclear issue and taunting the United States. Ahmadinejad’s newfound fame abroad, however, confused his true position at home.

What Khamenei failed to realize was that Ahmadinejad and his cohorts had greater ambitions than simply being his minions.

They spoke of their direct connection to the hidden imam — Shiite Islam’s Messiah equivalent — in an attempt to render the clergy obsolete. In “private” meetings — which were bugged by intelligence forces loyal to Khamenei — Ahmadinejad’s closest adviser, Rahim Mashaei, spoke openly of designs to supplant the clergy. The last straw came earlier this year, when Ahmadinejad tried to take over the Ministry of Intelligence, whose vast files on the financial and moral corruption of Iran’s political elite are powerful tools of political persuasion and blackmail.

The supreme leader was publicly nonchalant about Ahmadinejad’s insubordination; privately, however, he unleashed jackals that had long been salivating for the president’s comeuppance. The powerful Revolutionary Guards — who helped engineer Ahmadinejad’s contested 2009 reelection — swiftly declared their devotion to Khamenei, and several of the president’s advisers were arrested.

One former Guard and current member of parliament, Mohammad Karamirad, sent Ahmadinejad a message last week in the form of a macabre Persian proverb: “If [Khamenei] asks us to bring him a hat, we know what to bring him,” i.e., the head of the person wearing the hat.

In addition to proving the primacy of Iran’s supreme leader, the rise and fall of Ahmadinejad exemplifies the contempt that Tehran’s ruling cartel has for the intelligence of its citizenry.

Ahmadinejad’s tainted reelection — which spurred millions to take to the streets — was hailed by Khamenei as a “divine assessment” and the people’s will. Two years later, Ahmadinejad and his cronies are accused by former supporters of being “deviant Zionist agents” and “possessed by the devil.”

Khamenei’s desire to project a unified front to the world is likely to keep Ahmadinejad in office until his term expires in 2013. Khamenei seeks to wield power without accountability; this requires a president who has accountability without power. A disgraced Ahmadinejad can conveniently absorb blame for the country’s endemic economic, political and social disaffection.

For Washington, the best outcome of Iran’s conservative fratricide is only that the fight continues. Authoritarian collapses tend to have three prerequisites: grass-roots protests, fissures among the elite and a regime’s loss of will to use sustained brutality to retain power. While Iran has the first two, the regime remains quite willing to rule by terror.

And while the regime has been weakened, Iran’s opposition is unlikely to deliver democracy anytime soon. In contrast to Arab opposition movements that lack clear leadership but have a common goal — to bring down their respective regimes — the beleaguered, revolution-weary Iranian opposition has symbolic leadership — Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, both of whom are under house arrest — but lacks a clear consensus on its goals.

Instead of waiting in vain for the regime’s will to soften or for the opposition to reconfigure, the United States can aid the cause of democracy and open society in Iran by focusing on tearing down the information and communication barriers the regime has erected. Technological aid and infrastructure for better Internet and satellite communications would allow Iran’s democracy activists to stay connected with one another and show the outside world what’s happening in their country.

By accentuating the country’s internal rifts and breaking previously sacred taboos — such as challenging the supreme leader — Ahmadinejad has become an unlikely, unwitting ally of Iran’s democracy movement. Once thought to be leading the Islamic Republic’s rise, he is more likely to be remembered by historians as the man who hastened its decay.

First published in

Karim Sadjadpour is an associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.


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Shazde Asdola Mirza

Don't worry, Sepah is bringing democracy to IRAN ... lol

by Shazde Asdola Mirza on

Or that is the latest political theory of the Leftist Idiots Inc.

Bad Stories for Bad Kids


well what is new

by afshinazad on

all of us knew that this monkey is nothing but a puppet and he had no say.


This regime and its founder from day one start killing anyone who was threat to them. And they will kill and they are killing, and I wouldn't be surprised if we hear that A.N was killed by terrorist or his plane was crushed to mountain in near future.

One Thing we are forgetting that A.N or his cronies are not our problem, our problem starts with Khamenie and IRGC, even if tomorrow Khamenie dies or even tomorrow revolution happens in Iran, we have a problem with IRGC which will start the coup and for next 20 to 30 years will have a military Regime in power.

Our country is doomed forever and our people and country will never be free from dictators, our last freedom was pre 1978 and whether you agree or disagree with me, our country was free in so many ways from social to economic to religion and if we didn't have a political freedom because we were not ready for it and even today we are not ready for it. Some people think political freedom in Iran is the key for rest of the issues, but political freedom comes from maturity of nation and society and knowledge and education and tolerance and compromise and etc 

If we want political freedom, what is it we should do or to have?

Today in our country clerics and IRGC are playing with peoples mind and they have created a so much violence and chaos in society with unemployment and food prices and dress codes for women and repression and social and economical problems are cover for political problem that regime trying to avoid.

There is one solution and only solution for our country and the nation left and that is mass revolt against regime and destruction of whole regime from top to bottom and whipping every stain of this regime from the society and country, otherwise we all have to debate and debate forever.