Should we take President Ahmadinejad seriously?

President of Iran is no stranger to controversy.

Questions:

1. We have heard many controversial speeches from President Ahmadinejad in the past and just recently another at UN. It is hardly helpful but he keeps provoking. Why? Do you see any rational reasons behind it or he is just not capable to remain silent for a while.

2. The system of governance in Iran is based on some checks and balances and Ahmadinejad is not the absolute ruler. But how would you describe his position in the system of governance? How serious we should take his words and arguments?

Answers:

Jalil Roshandel, Associate Professor, Director of Security Studie, East Carolina University

1. His life, education, attachment to revolutionary guard, access to governmental position and now sitting at a major executive seat as the president of the Islamic Republic has always been controversial. The category of people he brought with himself either during his first term or since his second term are tuned with what academics define “populist”. The question the righteousness of everything and everyone not because they believe it is wrong, but because they want to put their opposition in defensive position.
In some cases, and this is particularly true when and where religious values or petit economic advantages are an issue, they even succeed to rally the public behind themselves and get some legitimacy. His controversial and provocative remarks may seem appealing to many Palestinians, many oppressed people in Arab and Iranian streets and the third world. That makes a superficial “hero” of him they like to see, the “terminator” who will put an end to Israeli and Palestinian century long conflict or trumpeting that “the demise of Capitalism has arrived”.

His leadership tactics include an ugly combination of deceive and bluff that he believes forces the adversary to pay attention to him and his government as if he is the decision maker. As your readers might remember during the past 25-26 years no US or world leader even bothered answering what Iranian presidents would say about the West in general and the US in particular. This is true until and even during the period of 1998-2005 when President Khatami with his peaceful messages and conciliatory gestures was trying to bridge the gap. Suddenly Ahmadinejad with his tactics of “deceive and demagogy” and receives so much of media attention.

A major component for Ahmadinejad’s provocative remarks is the media attention

2. Unlike fully and historically recognized democracies, governance in Iran has some sort of checks and balances that can be manipulated by several factors and by decision-makers. There is no standard in governance philosophy, yet Iran presents a completely unprecedented type. In the Islamic Republic of Iran, rivalry at the highest level ruins accepted norms and standards of checks and balances or makes them useless or biased when needed for or against a player.

Ahmadijejad has pushed the system further to worse with his tactic of “deceive and demagogy” well played in his domestic politics. If we agree that foreign policy is the continuation of domestic politics with other means, then he might be playing the same game twice however as observed since the presidential election in Iran this game can backfire in both arenas with one point to bear in mind that the level of tolerance in international community is much less than national environment.

Should he be taken seriously is a difficult question because with international diplomatic norms and standards statements from national leaders cannot be taken NOT DERIOUSLY, however he does not have the means to make them happen. So if we read between the lines he is willing to be taken seriously because it is only under such circumstance that he can score during his presidency one more time and say that because his remarks were serious it created reactions among the Western Leaders to the point that even Obama bothered responding to his nonsense on BBC Persian Service.

Hey, look, Kaddafi was not taken seriously – What happened?

Ruhi Ramazani, Professor Emeritus Of Government and Foreign Affairs, Department of Politics, University of Virginia

1. Ahmadinejad, as other presidents before him, represents the executive branch of the Iranian government according to the principle of separation of powers provided for in the Iranian constitution. The other branches are the judiciary and the legislative. Disregard his hyperbolic rhetoric, but take the substance of his remarks seriously for the important reason that he essentially follows the policies set by the Supreme Leader. When he says Iran has always been willing to negotiate he is saying what Khamenei has said time and again and what Khomeini said at the time of the creation of the Islamic Republic of Iran. But what all of them mean is that Iran is willing to negotiate, but not under pressure, sanctions, and the threat of military attack.

2. Ahmadinejad is ultra-conservative relative to Khatami and Rafsanjani before him. In foreign policy style he is confrontational. The key rational reason is Iran’s long and bitter experience with foreign invasions, occupations, interferences and threats of force. Hence, no matter who is Iran’s leader or president, Iran has come to have a culture of resistance to foreign domination and, by definition, it will never negotiate under coercion. No nation will understand Iran’s foreign policy statements and actions without understanding Iran’s history and culture.

Jamsheed Choksy, Professor of Iranian Studies in Department of Central Eurasian Studies, Indiana University

1. Ahmadinejad likes to grandstand in the fashion of many politicians. But in so doing he makes statements that reflect poorly on Iran and on himself. His ill-chosen words about the 9/11 attacks, the Holocaust, human rights in Iran, and other issues create barriers to his achieving the larger and necessary goals of successful negotiations and reacceptance into the world community. He seems to lose focus on matters that are really important for Iran when given a platform on which he should further instead of hinder Iran’s needs.

2.  Right now Ahmadinejad is locked in mortal combat with the mullahs and their supporters in a struggle for power within Iran. Ahmadinejad and his allies seem to be rejecting the fundamentalist Islamic basis of Iran’s government, seeking instead a presidential system with a chief executive on top rather than an ayatollah as supreme leader. He is hedging his bets for success on the general dissatisfaction among a wide range of Iranians with the Islamic Republic.

One Response

  1. [...] Jalil Roshandel (Security Studies) on WCTI-12 News, Sept. 29 and on WITN-TV News, Sept. 28, regarding his reaction to the Florida pastor who planned to burn the Quran. He was also quoted in an article titled, “Should we take President Ahmadinejad Seriously” in the Slovak Journal, Sept. 28 (English version at http://matisak.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/should-we-take-president-ahmadinejad-seriously/). [...]

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