Feature

A surprising view of Ahmadinejad

The latest U.S. diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks portray the Iranian leader as a moderate reformer who’d like to cut deals with the West, but can’t because hard-liners are calling the shots, said Reza Aslan in The Atlantic.

Reza AslanThe Atlantic

We all know Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as a fanatical hard-liner—but we may be wrong, said Reza Aslan. The latest U.S. diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks portray the Iranian leader as a moderate reformer who’d like to cut deals with the West, but can’t because hard-liners are calling the shots.

The leaked cables say that Ahmadinejad strongly supported the deal in which Iran would send its uranium to France and Russia for processing, to ensure it wouldn’t be turned into weapons-grade material. But that plan was scuttled by hard-liners in Tehran. At the height of the 2009 public demonstrations in Iran, the WikiLeaks cables say, Ahmadinejad proposed at a high-level meeting that the government defuse public anger by allowing more personal and press freedom. A Revolutionary Guard leader slapped Ahmadinejad across the face and shouted, “You are wrong! It is you who created this mess!’’

To the irritation of the Guard and the ayatollahs, the cables say, Ahmadinejad continues to press for moderation in dealing with the West and the Iranian public. Iran’s critics may have “more in common with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’’ than anyone imagined.

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