Don't underestimate Ahmadinejad , by Tom Porteous (UK)

Tom Porteous, who worked for the BBC and the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has just returned from Iran. He has written an interesting account titled "Don't underestimate political acumen of the Iranian president" (San Francisco Chronicle, 1/22/06). Mahmooud Ahmadinejad makes provocative speeches which infuriate the West, but are carefully calculated in terms of Iran's domestic politics. He is the first nonclerical president of the new Iran, and it is not certain that he could survive an effort to overthrow him by the more powerful mullahs. Despite denunciations of them, it is surprising how much power Islam has over the Iranian people. There is talk of the return of the Mahdi, Shiite Islam's last imam, who disappeared a little over 1,000 years ago. Many Iranians believe his return will herald an age of universal justice. Porteous concludes: The confrontation between the West and Iran may assist the consolidation of radical Islamist `politics in Iran and provide Tehran with incentives not only to develop nukes but to use them.

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