“The current abysmal situation of the world and the bitter incidents of history are due mainly to the wrong management of the world and the self-proclaimed centers of power who have entrusted themselves to the devil...an arms race and intimidation by nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction by the hegemonic powers have become prevalent...Continued threat by the uncivilized Zionists to resort to military action against our great nation is a clear example of this bitter reality."
What’s with this guy? Bluster. Piety. Braggadocio. That’s how Ahmadinejad got elected in Iran – for two terms as president. A man of the people. Speaking their values. Making Iranians feel better about the misery he and the ruling clerics have brought to them.
The sanctions have bitten and bitten deep. Iran’s oil exports have plunged from 2+ million barrels per day to slightly less than 1 million. The rial has plunged in value. It now takes 26,500 rials to buy a dollar. A year ago, it was half that amount. Domestic inflation and hardship have followed.
Of course, Ahmadinejad is not the figure he once was. He is still president, but the so-called “supreme leader” has “clipped his wings.” Ahmadinejad has been relegated to being in charge of the domestic economy – a challenge in which he has failed. But it’s his boss who is responsible for the nuclear portfolio and foreign relations.
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More to the point, Ahmadinejad is a lame duck. His second and final term ends in June 2013. No doubt the forces that be will insure the election of another hardliner. But this time it will be a hardliner with some “class” – a hardliner you can talk to, probably one who was educated in the United States.
With the now expected reelection of President Obama and Iran’s new president, meaningful negotiations are likely to follow.
That is, if Israel doesn’t bomb before then. The good news here is that Israeli public opinion has shifted against Netanyahu-Barak’s ‘bomb now’ campaign. Israelis have been asking what the most important relationship is to insure the future of Israel’s security – Israel-Iran or Israel-U.S. It’s the latter they know is the most important.
With Obama’s reelection more likely than ever, Israel will have to deal with him for another four years. Better not to cross him now – certainly not before the election. An Israel driven “October surprise" has become ever more remote.
So in the end, relations with Iran and with Israel hinge on the outcome of the US election. David Axelrod, chief campaign strategist for Obama, says that polls show that Obama is now ahead in the 9 key swing states that will bring the President the 270 electoral votes he needs to be reelected. Nate Silvers’ FiveThirtyEight New York Times blog, the most accurate of the pundits in 2008, predicts Obama winning with 312 electoral votes.
Both the Iranians and the Israelis have seen these polls. They follow them as closely as they follow their own politics. Their conclusion – Obama here today and here tomorrow. They are going to have to deal with him. With a clear mandate for another four years, they expect him to be tougher than ever. They know they need to accommodate to that. And they probably will.
Marvin Zonis is a global political economist and expert on Middle Eastern politics and history. He is currently Professor Emeritus at the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business. His website is www.marvinzonis.com.