Lost in his own translations: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad suffers from more than a mere credibility gap. (Majd /Getty Images)
You have to give it to Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He's more brainless than Brüno yet ballsier than Hester Prynne.
Here he is, not six weeks out from rigging his reelection and making blood-soaked porridge of the Iranian Revolution. But he has it in him to twice defy Ali Khamenei, the "Supreme Leader" without whose blessing Ahmadinejad would be selling cheap suits, not wearing them. He tricked one of his biggest electoral constituencies by granting a pay raise then withdrawing it after the election. Ministers are walking out on him, or refusing to attend meetings he's leading. And still, imprisoned protesters are dying in prison, giving the opposition new ammunition, which Mir Hussein Mousavi, or Moussavi, used today in the most forceful words he's used yet to denounce the regime. “How can it be that the leaders of our country do not cry out and shed tears about these tragedies,” Mousavi said in comments posted on his Web site. “Can they not see it, feel it? These things are blackening our country, blackening all our hearts. If we remain silent, it will destroy us all and take us to hell.”
The last thing Iranians have a proclivity for, Ahmadinejad among them, is silence. Here's the Ahmadinejad tally of late:
- Khamenei ordered Ahmadinejad to fire Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, whom Ahmadinejad had appointed his top vice president. Ahmadinejad is father-in-law to Mashaei's daughter. That's not the issue though. Mashaei's declaration twice in the past year that Iran "has no quarrel with Israel" is what Khamenei found unacceptable. Khamenei likes his quarrel with Israel--apparently even more so than Ahmadinejad, whose default reflex, when down in the polls is to bash Israel, or Jews, or the Holocaust. Anyway, Ahmadinejad refused to heed Khamenei's order. Publicly, brashly, incredibly. More conservatives joined Khamenei's clamor. Finally, on July 24, Ahmadinejad gave in. Or so it seemed. He removed Mashaei from the vice presidency. Then he appointed him chief of staff. Khamenei's beard is still quivering.
- Just before the election Ahmadinejad increased government pensioners' checks. He got their vote. After the election, he reduced the checks. Pensioners must've thought they'd been played for Louisiana constituents. Their checks are quivering.
- Ahmadinejad is threatening to fire ministers, ministers are refusing to attend meetings, and some are walking out of the cabinet entirely. Most of this is symbolic. Next week Ahmadinejad is inaugurated for his second term, at which point he'll have to submit his new list of ministers to Parliament for confirmation. The clashes are making him appear even weaker than he already was.
- Several protesters have been killed or died after being imprisoned, one as recently as three days ago, when Amir Javadi-Langaroodi was felled by a sniper's bullet, taken to infamous Evin Prison (where the Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi was held for months before the election) and either died or was murdered there. The deaths give the opposition more rallying points while discrediting Ahmadinejad and the regime clinging to power behind him.
In sum, Ahmadinejad is suffering from something worse than a credibility gap. It's a confidence gap, a legitimacy gap, a competence gap. And his second term hasn't yet begun.
- Who Rules Iran? A Primer
- How Should Obama Deal With Iran?
- Supreme Leader to Iran's Protesters: Drop Dead
- Ahmadinejad: Profile
- Hillary Clinton Springs "Defense Umbrella" Over Middle East