A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Ahmadinejad Week

Even before Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made his speech to the UN General Assembly, Amin Azad's guest post at Juan Cole's blog pretty much called it: "Has-Been, Lame Duck Ahmadinejad's UN Speech is Empty Mugging for the Camera." 

Ahmadinejad not only will be finishing up his second term, but there's even talk of abolishing the office of President. Ahmadinejad may be enjoying his last moment in the limelight, though as Azad notes:
If nothing extraordinary happens between now and the end of his presidency, the best fate that Ahmadinejad can hope for is to return to teaching civil engineering (his specialty is traffic engineering) at university. One thing, however, could change things for him dramatically, keeping him in the limelight and guaranteeing him a prominent political role well into the future: an Israeli attack on Iran. In such a case, all the Iranian leaders will forget their political differences and form a united front against aggression.
Ahmadinejad's speech today was not his only limelight, as he also gave a number of media interviews. Why, if his influence at home is on the wane? I think part of it is the need to find news in the ceremonial parade of speakers that is General Assembly week.  And, of course, the fact that the US media usually has to go to Iran to interview Ahmadi, and now he's coming to them.

Egyptian President Morsi's UN debut is today's other news, but no one expected Morsi to make huge headlines. For Ahmadinejad, the news seems that he didn't say anything too outrageous about Israel. His last appearance before the General Assembly seems to have been an anticlimax.

But Ahmadinejad was never known particularly for bizarre General Assembly behavior. The late (and otherwise unlamented) Libyan leader Mu‘ammar Qadhafi was unsurpassed in his ability to, well, do whatever it was he did. If you miss the unpredictability, go back three years to this post of mine from 2009: "Qadhafi on Taliban, Vatican, US Civil War, Saving Humanity, etc., etc." 

And believe me, there is a lot in each of those "etc."s. Qadhafi stretched his 15 minutes to 95 minutes and the simultaneous translator gave up at one point. Ahmadinejad never came close.

President Ahmadinejad, we remember Qadhafi. We listened to Qadhafi (and listened, and listened). And Mr. President, you're no Mu‘ammar Qadhafi.

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