Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad lashed out at the United States again in a speech Tuesday, the latest outburst in what analysts say is an attempt to regain his political stature in the wake of the popular protests that have challenged the government since the disputed presidential election. Mr. Ahmedinejad is resorting more frequently to foreign and domestic travels in what appears to be an attempt to seek relevance.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad spoke during a visit to the city of Shiraz, proclaiming that "Middle East nations would not let the United States dominate the region," and that the "era of domination by arrogant powers ... is now over."
He says that everybody should know the forces who are slaughtering people in Afghanistan today will have to leave Afghanistan, where they are far more humiliated than the Soviet Union and Britain.
He also called recent accusations that Iran was attempting to work on sophisticated nuclear-weapons technology "stale and tasteless," adding the United States and Israel have more weapons than Iran.
He says that the United States has nearly 8,000 nuclear warheads and must be disarmed, while Israel has about 400 nuclear warheads too, and must be disarmed. He adds that Iran and all other nations have resisted, and will resist, until the complete disarmament of America and all the arrogant powers of the world.
President Ahmedinejad has traveled widely across Iran and abroad recently in what many analysts say is a bid to reassert his legitimacy, which was tarnished after the disputed election in June. In Copenhagen, Friday, he told reporters that tyranny exists in many places, and few complain.
He says western governments are not worried about democracy and they have no concern about freedom, because many governments do not have elections and do not have freedom and they are not criticized.
Dr. Mehrdad Khonsari of the London-based Center for Arab and Iranian studies says Mr. Ahmedinejad is ratcheting up his rhetoric as hopes for a nuclear deal with the West fade. "He knows that the window of opportunity for him to come up with any kind of diplomatic breakthrough is almost up, and that is why his rhetoric is increasing, as hopes of him reaching some kind of solution is fading ...," Khonsari said.
There has been growing discussion by Iran analysts in recent weeks about how solid the Iranian president's grip on power still is, but Khonsari thinks Mr. Ahmedinejad remains in control, despite the challenges. "He has a lot of problems inside Iran. People do not recognize his legitimacy. He is not worried about that. Whether he is greeted by 5,000 people or 50,000 people, he is trying to say 'I am in charge.' The fact is, he does control all the levers of power that are up to him to control," he said.
Scott Lucas of the University of Birmingham in Britain, who is behind the popular Iran blog "Enduring America," thinks Mr. Ahmedinejad is fighting for his political survival and that quarrels in the regime have forced him to go it alone. "I think, at the broader level, the question whether this is a regime strategy is a most interesting one. In other words is the supreme leader and other officials putting Ahmedinejad forward in this way? My opinion is no. There has been a lot of tension between the Supreme Leader and Ahmedinejad and between Ahmedinejad and other officials since June ... I think rather than this being a regime strategy, Ahmedinejad is trying to turn this into his own personal survival," he said.
Lucas believes President Ahmedinejad and supreme leader Ali Khamenei have wrangled over political power and control over key ministries since the June elections and that the powerful Revolutionary Guard has backed the president over the ayatollah in key instances.
"In the ministry of intelligence, there were a number of high level officials who were sacked and the argument is that Ahmedinejad and the Revolutionary Guard were able to get their people in at the top of the ministry. The supreme leader, in a sense, lost that battle against Ahmedinejad, and has been able to reassert himself against the president in recent weeks. The question I cannot answer is what is the relationship between the president and the Revolutionary Guard, now?," Lucas said.
Meir Javedanfar of the MEEPAS Center in Tel Aviv does not believe the Iranian president has major problems with the supreme leader, but does have problems with the Iranian public and the opposition Green Movement. "I think when it comes to his relationship with the supreme leader, his position is very strong, but when it comes to other people, especially the moderate conservatives, he has got serious problems, and when it comes to the opposition, the reformist movement, his problems are mounting every day," he said.