Well, so much for Barack Obama cozying up to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. At least in the foreseeable future. Still, I believe the Obama administration is right to seek dialogue with its adversaries, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney having shown the limits of America's go-it-alone, my-way-or-the-highway "diplomacy."
I suspect the hardliners in Iran were determined to keep Ahmadinejad in power precisely because they are afraid to talk to the U.S. Perhaps they're genuinely fearful of Barack Obama? After all, Iranians now know that Obama WOULD hurt a fly! And while the Iranian government rejects any "preconditions" for negotiation on America's part, they've set their own precondition: If America wants to talk to Iran, it will have to be with the Supreme Leader's grinning madman, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. His campaign opponent, Mir Hussein Moussavi, though very conservative himself, just couldn't be trusted to follow the script. In other words, Iran is GOING to make that bomb!
...Of course, I could be way off base here. Maybe Ahmadinejad DID win a landslide re-election...in a four-man race? However, were this the case, it it would underscore deep divisions within Iran: Between country and city; between the educated North Tehran elite and the unwashed masses; and between Iranians under age 30 (especially women) and those older than 30. Resolving these differences will not be a pretty to watch.
...And, if anyone looks like he could appeal to the unwashed masses in Iran, it's surely Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Those deep-set, ferret eyes, his seeming inattention to grooming, the maniacal smile, that schnoz, and the impression that he might have been plucked from a “Death to America” rally by the Supreme Leader himself.
As for the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, he’s taller than might you think, is quite robust despite a paralyzed right hand, and has been known to smile on occasion. And, compared to his predecesor, the Grand Ayatolla Khomeni (a.k.a. the World’s Sternest Man), Ali Khamenei looks downright bookish -- perhaps the world’s nerdiest theocrat.
But don’t be fooled. This “theonerd” won’t let go of power unless it’s pried from his cold, dead hand. Clearly, his regime only knows how to respond with brute force. One powerful ayatollah asserts that dissidents are guilty of "mohareb" (waging war against God), a crime punishable by death. But their brute force is wielded with a very clumsy club, aboard a motorbike. The cold-blooded murder of young Neda Soltan, as she was getting out of a car, has created a martyr for the cause of freedom and democracy. The regime, of course, has ordered that she not be martyred by her countrymen. But it's too late -- Neda, her first name now as familiar as Hillary Clinton's, has already been beatified the world over.
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