Personal and academic blog. Explores the borderlands between rhetoric, politics and intelligence.


What is President Ahmedinejad doing? A sketch for analysis

Today it struck me that the recent statements by Iranian president Ahmedinejad are a very interesting object for a rhetorical and political analysis. However, busy as I am with christmas and dissertation, I will only draw up some basic elements for a further analysis - hopefully I'll get back to it sometime after New Year. If you have some brilliant insights over the Christmas-duck, please don't hesitate to comment.

He has stated a number of quite controversial things, mostly concerning Israel and jews but also a number of actions could be seen as symbolic communication as well as perhaps more practical matters.

December 2005: Statement: Holocaust is a myth
December 2005: Statement: Move Israel to Germany/Austria
Statement: Wipe Israel off the map
Replaced a lot of moderate diplomats around the world
A reputed purge of opponents in the administration

The situation
Iran is in a tight spot at the moment. A disenfranchised youth and general population has given up on political reforms, it seems, as well as the external pressure has risen after the US has label Iran as bad boys. The nuclear programme still strikes up quite a fuss, but it is probably seen by many as a right and a plight of the Shia-state, along the lines of the notion of the "Islamic Bomb" that Pakistan built. The trouble in Iraq has proved a mixed blessing for Iran, providing influence on the southern parts, but potentially destabilising Iran itself and inspiring its Kurdish minority. At the moment the country is at a low-point of its relations with the western world.

The man
Ahmedinejad (or Ahmadinejad whichever source you use) is known as a hardliner, even more hardline than the clergy that was deemed quite conservative and stiff during the previous president.

Seen from a rhetorical/political perspective a hardliner seems to have a number of communicative/symbolic duties to perform: He has to reaffirm his firmness, he has to inspire confidence in the hard line and - preferably - he will have to show results without pushing the country into a less diserable position.

The plot
So what is he doing, then, anoying the entire international system and seemingly sticking his cheek out for a retaliatory blow one way or the other?

Initially it would seem that Ahmedinejad is consolidating his position internally by creating agonism, opposition to Israel. Knowing quite well that there is cheap points to be had here, he exploits the palestinian cause as men such as Ghaddaffi and Saddam Hussein before him. Furthermore he knows that he is already in a bad position with the outside world, so short of a war he can't really lose anything. Therefor the more belicose utterings might be designed to put him in a better position when negotiating the atomic issue in the future. If the west fears a steeled Iranian leader, they might be more inclined to give consessions. This analysis would hold more true with the EU case than the American one.

If this initial analysis is right, it would be a logical next step for him to open negotiations. Preferably in secret, so that he wouldn't lose face if they went badly - and so that he could present a fait accompli to the international society. We here remember the shop-worn example of Nixon (another hardliner) and his remarkable opening to China.


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