The World According to Ahmadinejad
The World According to Ahmadinejad
9:00 AM, SEP 22, 2011 . BY ASH JAIN
As Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's prepares to speak at the United
Nations, it is tempting to dismiss his anti-American rants as just another
propaganda stunt. But what makes his remarks difficult to ignore is that
large segments of the Iranian population will buy into them. And that
Ahmadinejad, along with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khameini and Iran's
clerical leadership, appear to believe what they are saying - fueling a
narrative that drives Iran's reckless international behavior.
The notion that the U.S. government deliberately conspired to attack its own
people on 9/11 as a pretext for global warfare-a notion Ahmadinejad famously
peddles-strikes most reasonable observers as preposterous. Yet such an
account fits seamlessly into the overarching worldview of Iran's leaders.
This worldview, articulated in letters, speeches, and statements at home and
abroad, is marked by several attributes:
The United States is a sinister power, bent on global oppression. Routinely
described as the "Great Satan" and the "devil incarnate," the United States
is perceived as a cruel, greedy, and oppressive power seeking global
domination. This view is grounded in a reading of history that sees
America-the leading force behind a liberal, democratic world order-as
overwhelmingly responsible for the immoral and corrupt state of mankind. As
Ahmadinejad has stated, "the arrogant regime in the United States is the
biggest obstacle against the cause of the prophets."
The U.S.-led capitalist system is on the brink of collapse. Believing that
capitalism is the cause of social ills facing the West, including poverty,
drugs, and inequality, Iran's leaders see the ongoing global economic
turmoil as proof that the capitalist system is approaching its demise.
Capitalism has "produced nothing but frustration, disappointment and a dark
future" for humanity, according to Ahmadinejad, and will "soon join history
in the future."
U.S. alliances in the Middle East are crumbling. Iran's leaders rejoiced at
the downfall of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak - seeing it as vindication
of its long-held belief that the days of U.S.-backed dictators are numbered.
Similarly, Iran sees Israel - America's strongest regional ally - as
fundamentally illegitimate and destined to collapse. With Israel seemingly
on the defensive, Tehran believes it is just a matter of time before it will
succeed in forcing the "Zionist leaders to return to their homes, and to
restore Palestine to its original owners."
Iran's Islamic revolution is heralding a new global order. Central to this
worldview is the notion that the Iranian revolution provides universal
inspiration for a new international system. Ahmadinejad has called for
"setting up a new international economic order based on human and moral
values and obligations." While vague in describing its form, Iran's leaders
have made clear this new world order would limit American and Western
influences, replacing it with one in which Iran and its followers would be
Looking at current events, it is easy to understand why Iran's leaders might
exude so much confidence. The West continues to be mired in high levels of
debt and unemployment, Israel is struggling in the face of diplomatic
isolation, and the Arab Spring rolls on. Recent headlines from Iran's
PressTV capture the sentiment: "US, Israel Cannot Stop MENA Uprisings,"
"US Moving Towards Total Collapse," and "Capitalism on Death Bed."
Superficially, such events may reinforce the Iranian narrative. But viewed
in context, Tehran's perceptions are utterly devoid from reality. True, the
global economy continues to sputter, but does anyone else really believe
that capitalism and democracy are on their way out? Israel may be outvoted
at the U.N., but the region's strongest military power is not about to
disappear. And the Arab Spring lives on in Syria - a close Iranian ally -
while the Iranian revolution has played virtually no role in any of the
recent Middle East uprisings.
So does it really matter that Iran's leaders seem to truly believe in this
stuff? Absolutely. The warped worldview reflected in Ahmadinejad's remarks
is what drives Iran's confrontational posture toward the West - and serves
as the inspiration for its dangerous nuclear ambitions. Given the Islamic
Republic's far-reaching ambitions, a nuclear weapons capability could be
Consequently, Iran must remain at the top of the national security agenda.
The U.S. must be more pro-active in countering Iran's propaganda machine and
breathing new life into the suppressed Green Movement. At the same time, the
United States must be prepared to ramp up sanctions and take all necessary
actions to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Given their
irrational exuberance, Iran's leaders could use a dose of reality.
Ash Jain is a former member of the State Department's Policy Planning Staff
and author of "Nuclear Weapons and Iran's Global Ambitions: Troubling
Scenarios," published by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
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