With all the fuss around Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's recent visit to New York, you'd think that he had political power, command of the military, or at least strong popular support in his homeland. Actually, he has none of the above, as Stephen Zunes argues in a recent Foreign Policy in Focus article:
Why...is all this attention being given to a relatively powerless lame duck president of a Third World country? ...The emphasis and even exaggeration of Ahmadinejad's more bizarre and provocative statements ... makes it politically easier for the United States to refuse to engage in dialogue or enter into negotiations, such as those that led to an end of Libya's nuclear program in 2003.
What's really going on, Zunes argues, is an attempt to put the Iranian figurehead into a very familiar role - "the Saddam niche" - which offers people in the U.S. a sense of righteous superiority and a justification for the U.S.'s over-militarized Middle East policy.
Elizabeth Palmberg is an assistant editor for Sojourners.