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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Josh Stacher, a professor of Middle East politics at Kent State University, says that Arab familiarity with stolen elections in their own countries, coupled with the sight of large antiregime protests, may have hurt Ahmadinejad's popularity in the region.Skip to next paragraph
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"Every state in the region has a president or a king that the people on the ground disagree with, and every state has seen rigged elections," he says. "The amount of people on the streets in Tehran show that people there aren't buying Ahmadinejad's resistance rhetoric anyway, and that could spread through the neighborhood."
That would be a relief for Egypt, which – like many other Sunni Arab countries – has long been wary of Iran's revolutionary rhetoric and its popularity for its resistance role. But the powerful display of street power following last month's election is even more worrying to autocratic regimes.
Iran's resistance role bigger than Ahmadinejad
But no matter how badly the regime's credibility has been compromised, however, the idea of resistance is unlikely to go away, says Christian Rasmus Elling, a guest scholar of Iranian politics at New York University, because "it has been a main feature of the Islamic Republic since the revolution."
It has also been "structurally developed" into Iran's regional role, says Mr. Stacher, which would have probably remain unchanged even if Mr. Mousavi or Mr. Karoubi had won in June.
"Regardless of the winner of the election, its role in resistance to the West would stay in place," he says. "It's bigger than Ahmadinejad; it's about where Iran is in the region."
Besides, the countries that Iran claims to resist have not gone anywhere, says Ilan Berman, vice president of the American Foreign Policy Council and author of "Taking on Tehran: Strategies for Confronting the Islamic Republic."
He says the resistance narrative is not about the legitimacy of Iran's leaders and "has not been dented at all" by claims of election fraud.
"The ideology of resistance has a lot of staying power because it is not driven by the legitimacy of the Iranian regime but by the persistence of adversaries like the United States and Israel," says Mr. Berman. "The people they are resisting are still around."
Fans even in Egypt, despite sour relations with Iran
Iran's adversaries are close allies of Egypt, which has led to sour relations between the two since 1979. That makes Ahmadinejad's scheduled attendance to the summit, and his possible use of it as a soapbox, awkward.
Hussein Amin, a journalism professor at the American University in Cairo, is critical of Iran's stance on Israel and nuclear weapons. But he admits that even here Ahmadinejad has fans among the country's disadvantaged that admire his defiance of the West.
"Most of the elite here are against him, but the middle and lower classes – especially the pious – they of course support him," he says. "No one knows the impact of his visit, and that is what is worrying."