A recent poll found former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to be the preferred candidate for this June’s presidential elections. Many Iran-watchers say the country’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei would never allow Ahmadinejad to run again after butting heads on various issues in the past. But clearly nobody is getting in Ahmadinad’s way as he continues to dabble in politics. Ahmadinejad won’t say if he plans to run for office again right now. I ask if he, like many, thinks the next President whoever he is, will be a hardliner like himself. He leaves it to others to read the tea leaves.
“I am not a foreteller, and am not able to predict the future, so clearly as some people do,” Ahmadinejad told Fox News in an exclusive interview. “But this is clear; whenever the nation’s wills are involved, it’s going to be peace, brotherhood, justice, freedom and friendship.”
President Joe Biden will have to figure out how he will deal with the Islamic Republic which is turning up the heat, testing missiles, enriching uranium to a higher grade now and threatening to limit UN inspections. I asked Ahamdinejad what he thinks of the newly-elected US President.
“Look, what we’ve observed so far through the US’s political history, is that the international policies of the US is decided by the ‘beyond-the-scene governing board.’ And the role of Presidents is small in this. But we hope that Mr. Biden, despite this, would be able to make positive changes in the US foreign policy for the interest of justice, mutual respect and peace.”
I pressed him on what he means by this “beyond-the-scenes” or “behind-the-scenes board,” but he was vague in his answer. An invisible hand with control over weapons, wars and money. He added he doesn’t feel it much matters who’s in the White House, a Democrat or a Republican, because they all follow largely the same agenda. Still, he seems to hold out hope for Biden.
“I have sent a letter to Mr. Biden after he was elected; I sent it this week and in that letter I described the world’s condition, and I asked him to stand firm and change the policies toward justice, peace, and I prayed for him.”
The former Iranian President says he spends a lot of time these days on correspondence and with family. I asked if he has any passions–hobbies or activities that give him pleasure and he declined to name any. From his Twitter account, it appears he follows sports as he wrote messages of condolence after the deaths of both L.A. Lakers star Kobe Bryant and Argentinian soccer great Diego Maradonna.
Some remark there has been a transformation in the firebrand President. His popularity, some analysts told me, has to do with a nostalgia for the years of Ahmadinejad’s rule when oil prices were high and government hand-outs wildly popular. There are those, however, who blame Ahmadinejad for intensifying Iran’s international isolation. I asked the former Iranian President how he would like to see his legacy remembered.
“Like any other human being,” he begins, “I am interested in being remembered with a good reputation by the people, as somebody who did his best to establish friendship, peace and justice.”
For those Iranian who landed in jail for crossing the regime in those years, history will look quite different.
Some have called Ahmadinejad Trumpian in his populist ways and jabs at the elite establishment and perceived enemies. He did his own sort of pledge to “drain the swamp.” In the end, some point to allies who got very rich under Ahmadinejad. But they say, he stuck by them even when they got in trouble for it.
Ahmadinejad’s harsh and rejectionist views on Israel have not changed, at least publicly. At the same time, he claims to “love all of humanity.”
Iran will clearly not be the next country to sign an accord with Israel. Ahmadinejad seems to regret, however, ruptured relations with another foe, the United States and considers opportunity costs have been great.
“I think not only have the two nations of Iran and US suffered damages from this,” he says, “but also the other nations have suffered damage, because they have not been able to use the potential of both the US and Iranian nations.”
Many of his countrymen no doubt share those hopes that the U.S. and Iran can finally work out their differences.