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Washington Post: The Rise and Fall of Iran's Ahmadinejad

Author: Karim Sadjadpour, associate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
July 13, 2011


Karim Sadjadpour writes in the Washington Post that 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.

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.


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