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March 15, 2006
Western Firmness Undermining Ahmadinejad?

The New York Times reports that the hard line espoused by George Bush and the West against Iran may have caused a significant rift in Iranian domestic politics, undermining the hyperbolic Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the clerics that installed him as president. The Iranians apparently did not expect to see a unified opposition to their attempt to build nuclear weapons and have been most disturbed by a lack of Russian diplomatic support:

Just weeks ago, the Iranian government's combative approach toward building a nuclear program produced rare public displays of unity here. Now, while the top leaders remain resolute in their course, cracks are opening both inside and outside the circles of power over the issue. ...

One senior Iranian official, who asked to remain anonymous because of the delicate nature of the issue, said: "I tell you, if what they were doing was working, we would say, 'Good.' " But, he added: "For 27 years after the revolution, America wanted to get Iran to the Security Council and America failed. In less than six months, Ahmadinejad did that."

One month ago, the same official had said with a laugh that those who thought the hard-line approach was a bad choice were staying silent because it appeared to be succeeding. ...

Reformers, whose political clout as a movement vanished after the last election, have also begun to speak out. And people with close ties to the government said high-ranking clerics had begun to give criticism of Iran's position to Ayatollah Khamenei, which the political elite sees as a seismic jolt.

Our enemies -- and that obviously includes Iran -- see us as weak and vacillating, an impression we definitely left with the mullahcracy after the 1979 sacking of our embassy and hostaging of our diplomatic corps. Our policy of retreat and appeasement in the decades following that incident (through administrations of both parties) cemented that analysis. We have reaped the bitter fruits of those policies, and only now have our enemies detected a change in our will to defend ourselves and our allies. The mullahs have miscalculated, and wiser heads in Iran have finally noticed. We need to keep the pressure on Teheran to ensure that they fail.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 15, 2006 7:16 AM

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