Despite some incendiary remarks, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's attendance at the U.N. General Assembly in New York was marked by a low-key tone, reflecting the impact of Iran's domestic politics. Increasingly, Ahmadinejad's real battle is at home, against the mullahs who brought him to power. And in that struggle, he and his allies are increasingly embracing a nationalist tradition that predates Iran's theocracy.

Ahmadinejad's Nationalist Attack on the Islamic Republic

By , , Briefing

Despite some typically incendiary remarks, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's attendance at the U.N. General Assembly's 65th session in New York was marked by a low-key tone noted by many. The change in tone, including a reported willingness to resume talks with the U.S. and its allies, reflects the impact of Iran's domestic politics. For increasingly, Ahmadinejad's real battle is at home, against the mullahs who brought him to power. And in that struggle, Ahmadinejad and his allies are increasingly embracing Iran's venerable 2,500-year-old national heritage to attack its recent three-decade Islamist experiment.

The latest salvo, via a Web site called Mashanews run by Ahmadinejad's chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, didn't mince words. "Iran needs to remove the mullahs from power once for all," it read, "and return to a great civilization without the Arab-style clerics who have tainted and destroyed the country for the past 31 years." The executive branch's current stance on the Shiite clergymen who have shaped Iranian politics since 1979 is summed up as, "din (religion) should be distinct from dowla (state)." Indeed, Ahmadinejad's supporters have begun comparing him to King Cyrus the Great, the founder of the Persian Empire who kept those two institutions separate. ...

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