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The World According to Ahmadinejad

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      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
      predominant.

      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
      particularly devastating.

      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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