Sunday, October 30, 2005

A Tale of Two Presidents

The Australian has an interesting article about the striking similarities between the political careers of Pres. Bush and Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

...Although there could scarcely be two more different political capitals than Washington and Tehran, experts have found remarkable parallels in the careers of the Iranian and American presidents. Were it not for their different languages and family backgrounds, Bush and Ahmadinejad might be political "soul-mates", according to Juan Cole, a Middle East historian at the University of Michigan.

Both men relied on right-wing religious forces for their recent election success. Both campaigned as comparative "outsiders", denouncing their respective political establishments. Bush first ran for president as governor of Texas and frequently criticised Washington insiders; Ahmadinejad ran as mayor of Tehran denouncing central government corruption.

Both men have exploited their personal piety -- Bush with evangelical Christians and Ahmadinejad with fundamentalist Muslims. And both see themselves not as intellectual policy-makers but as down-to-earth problem-solvers.

Bush, a former businessman, runs his administration on a corporate model; Ahmadinejad, who has a doctorate in engineering, made his political reputation as a manager of Tehran's sprawling municipality.

The similarities may also extend to an unswerving belief in their nations' rectitude and a refusal to admit to mistakes. In the case of Iran's nuclear ambitions, the two men are set on a collision course that neither seems interested in avoiding.

Yet just as Bush is struggling to placate his right-wing supporters after a series of embarrassing setbacks, so Ahmadinejad may soon find it hard to keep up his belligerent approach. The Iranian President has already suffered the Bush-like indignity of having one of his nominees rejected for a government post -- the parliament recently vetoed his choice for the key post of oil minister.

The same article also notes that the global reaction to Ahmadinejad's recent public statement that Israel "should be wiped off the map" demonstrates that world opinion can sometimes work more effectively to isolate dangerous regimes when the U.S. takes a less belligerent approach.
The situation was tailor-made for an undiplomatic outburst by John Bolton, the blunt-spoken US ambassador to the UN. Iran's new President had just called for the destruction of Israel and Bolton has rarely minced his words when assailing the enemies of the US and its allies.

Yet the ambassador last week restricted himself to a brief declaration of comparatively modest dismay and conspicuously failed to support Israel's call for Iran to be expelled from the UN.

Behind the scenes, US officials could barely contain their glee. For once, President George W. Bush's administration did not need to unleash its rhetorical artillery against the ayatollahs of Iran -- the rest of the world, led by British Prime Minister Tony Blair, was doing it for them.

The rash public statement by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that Israel "must be wiped off the map" aroused international condemnation and left Iran looking isolated.
As Russia, China and other non-aligned nations joined a chorus of complaints at Mr Ahmadinejad's posturing, US and British officials saw an unexpected chance for an international consensus on the need to curb Iran's illicit nuclear weapons program.

"It's a fair guess that these remarks will alienate a lot of people," a British Foreign Office spokesman said. "Before this, (countries like Russia and China) were inclined to give the Iranians the benefit of the doubt."

In Washington, a senior US official claimed that countries that had previously been prepared to side with Iran were now "running for the doors".
[The strong international reaction to Ahmadinejad's comments help to explain why] Bolton limited himself to saying that Ahmadinejad's remarks about Israel were "pernicious and unacceptable". The US is beginning to learn that the less it says about Iran, the more pressure is generated on the regime from elsewhere.

No comments: