Has Ahmadinejad lost his global following?
After stamping out election protests, Iran may see its "resistance" brand weaken. The first big test: The Non-Aligned Movement summit, which opens Wednesday in Egypt.
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Under Mr. Ahmadinejad, Iran's "resistance" brand has gone global, challenging Western hegemony in the name of defending the globally downtrodden and winning allies from Lebanon to Venezuela while drawing harsh criticism from the United States.
But analysts say Iran's resistance image has been challenged by Ahmadinejad's controversial June 12 reelection, after which hundreds of thousands of Iranians took to the street to protest what they say is a fradulent vote. Even so, the idea of "resistance" is hard-wired into the Islamic Republic, and many expect the president to strongly reassert it by turning up verbal attacks on Israel and the West.
His first big chance comes in an unlikely place: Egypt. One of Iran's biggest regional rivals, Egypt, this week hosts a summit of the Non-Aligned Movement, a cold war alliance of developing states. Ahmadinejad is scheduled to attend the event, which begins Wednesday.
He will be the first Iranian leader to come here since the revolution, and few expect him to be a demure guest.
"He is coming to the summit to send a message to the United States, Israel, and Europe," says Nabil Abdel Fattah, assistant director of Cairo's Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, a think tank with government ties. "He will keep attacking Israel and defending himself and the Iranian regime against critics in the West who have been critical of the fairness of the last election," he says.
Iranian discontent could spill over
But will fiery rhetoric be enough? For Arabs, Mr. Abdel Fattah says Ahmadinejad's words may not carry the punch they used to because the public reaction to Iran's crackdown has "generally not been positive."
"People can see now that Iran has the same authoritarian political systems as the Arab world," he says. "Ahmadinejad is not a hero."
Ahmadinejad was declared the winner of the June 12 election with the blessing of the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Reformist candidates Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi protested the results, citing irregularities, and set off the largest demonstrations in Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution.