Neocons for Ahmadinejad

by Daniel Luban

At Wednesday’s Heritage Foundation conference on the Middle East peace process (which, as I wrote yesterday, was primarily devoted to pushing the almost-universally-scorned “three-state solution” for Israel-Palestine), Middle East Forum director Daniel Pipes made an unusually revealing comment while discussing Iran’s upcoming presidential elections.

“I’m sometimes asked who I would vote for if I were enfranchised in this election, and I think that, with due hesitance, I would vote for Ahmadinejad,” Pipes said. The reason, Pipes went on, is that he would “prefer to have an enemy who’s forthright and obvious, who wakes people up with his outlandish statements.” (Video of the event is available by following the link to the Heritage website; Pipes’s comments come at about the 1:29:00 mark.)

Although it is rather remarkable to see a prominent neoconservative admit this in public, it’s clear that many Iran hawks in America and Israel are similarly hoping for an Ahmadinejad victory next week. After all, the Iranian president’s outlandish statements have been a propaganda gold mine for those pushing military action against Tehran, and no warmongering op-ed would be complete without a ritualistic invocation of his (mistranslated) call to “wipe Israel off the map”. At last month’s AIPAC conference, Ahmadinejad was the undisputed star of the show; large glossy photos of him touring nuclear facilities in a lab coat were distributed to every conference-goer, and the largely geriatric audience was bludgeoned into a state of terror with constant juxtapositions of Hitler and Ahmadinejad, Auschwitz and Natanz. An alien who descended on the conference might be forgiven for thinking that Ahmadinejad was president of Israel or the U.S. rather than Iran, since he was far more discussed and displayed than Benjamin Netanyahu, Avigdor Lieberman, or Barack Obama.

Given Ahmadinejad’s usefulness as a propaganda tool, it is not surprising that the Iran hawks would be eager to hold on to him. A more moderate president would threaten to puncture the hysterical and apocalyptic atmosphere in which discussion of the Iranian nuclear program is currently conducted. (Also of related interest is the right’s angry reaction to the release of Roxana Saberi — on display, for example, in this James Kirchick monologue. From the hawks’ perspective, of course, the ideal outcome politically speaking would have been for Iran to execute Saberi, preferably in the most brutal and medieval fashion possible.)

Now that it seems possible that Ahmadinejad might lose, however, the same people who spent the last four years obsessively focusing on the Iranian president’s every utterance have suddenly discovered that the Iranian presidency doesn’t matter after all. In the same discussion at Heritage, Pipes reminded the audience that it is Supreme Leader Khamenei rather than the president who controls foreign affairs and military policy. Similarly, AIPAC is now pushing the line that Iran’s elections will not affect their nuclear policy. While it is perfectly true that the Iranian president has little control over foreign policy, it would have been nice to see some acknowledgement of this from the Iran hawks prior to the elections, instead of constant harping about the “existential threat” that the dastardly Ahmadinejad poses to Israel and the U.S.

UPDATE: Trita Parsi’s latest article is also of interest here. Parsi details how U.S. congressional leaders have fast-tracked the Iran Sanctions Enabling Act of 2009 — a move that is likely to bolster Ahmadinejad and undercut Moussavi in the days before the election. Is this the intended effect? Given the list of cosponsors (including such familiar names as Eric Cantor, Mark Kirk, and Shelley Berkley), it seems more than likely.

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Daniel Luban

Daniel Luban is a postdoctoral associate at Yale University. He holds a PhD in politics from the University of Chicago and was formerly a correspondent in the Washington bureau of Inter Press Service.



  1. According to an ancient Persian proverb: “The yellow dog is the brother of jackal” Why is it that the westerner politicians don’t get it? The elements of the regime, are all up to protecting and prolong the life of the nasty criminal regime. What is missing in this equation is the people of Iran whose rights have been systematically violated for the past 30 years.
    I wonder when does the west want to learn and come to senses and realize that we have to get rid of Islamic Republic of Iran(IRI.)

  2. As much as I like Mr. Luban’s writings I have to protest one thing in the article – the link to that sniveling little kid’s blog, young Mr. Jamie Kirchick.

    Why would you want to give this child any credibility on the adult stage? I don’t care if he works for the New Republic. That silly rag long ago lost it’s credibility.

    Young Jamie loves to pose as the Internet hero, advocating attack on every country in the Middle East but as a 26 year old male, he is just the age that the recruiters are looking for. I won’t hold my breath waiting the keyboard general to sign up.

    But most importantly, he is 26 years old. What in God’s name does he know about anything of importance?

  3. If the U.S. financially and militarily supports Israel and Israel strikes Iran, then this is in essence a proxy war for the United States, really. So we need to start with the U.S. government, fix that problem and then the issue with Israel will naturally resolve itself.

    Iran hasn’t invaded any country for far longer than either the U.S. or Israel. The latter are the aggressors of the last many years.

  4. The presumption the President is “outlandish” has itself come under some credible scrutiny. From the Iranians ‘forcing jews to wear yellow stars’ to the “Iranian President threatens to wipe israel off of the map’, these propaganda stories are solidly debunked and relegated only to the craziest of websites, with only a few mainstream and inveterate kooks making insincere references to them. Maybe Elie Wiesel should have a visit to Jenin. Have a look at the upturned earth and half-buried artifacts. Doesn’t that tell the story right there?

  5. Pipes is nothing more than a self-promoting blowhard that loves to hear the sound of his own voice.

    He’s a jack booted fascist thug, stalking American college campuses and paying spies and turncoats to turn in professors who don’t show absolute loyalty and allegiance to that Apartheid Nightmare, Israel.

    He’s another of that sadistic bunch of Zionists and Neocons that helped lie the US into invading Iraq and are now lying the US into bombing to hell Iran.

    The world’s two largest terrorist states are the USA and Israel and until the USA wakes up and realizes we’re being used by Israeli-Firsters and Zionists whose loyalty is to Israel and not the USA, we’ll keep getting used to fight Israel’s wars in the ME.

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