Standing up to the boss

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's appeal lies in his taking on Big Powers, writes Rajiv Arora.

india Updated: Feb 16, 2012 22:27 IST
Rajiv Arora
Rajiv Arora
Hindustan Times
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad,Big Powers,Rajiv Arora

Call me naïve, but on some basic level, you have to give it to Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for his ability to put even the most powerful countries in a tight spot. On Wednesday, while making an overjoyed statement on his country’s “very big new achievement” of successfully building faster uranium enrichment centrifuges and the loading of domestically made fuel rods, Ahmadinejad once again rattled America’s cage by saying, “The era of bullying nations has passed. The arrogant powers cannot monopolise nuclear technology.” Huzzah!

It’s not the first time we have heard the man voice his stand on the West’s stand on his country’s nuclear programme. Each time Iran blurts the N word, America gets its knickers in a twist while Israel simply wets its pants. This is despite Ahmadinejad’s constant reiteration that Tehran’s nuclear programme is intended for peaceful civilian purposes — not that anyone has to believe him, but because till now, that’s what it is.

The president in a journalist’s jacket and loaded with immense chutzpah (a Hebrew word meaning ‘shameless audacity’) has even proposed to modify Iran’s reactors in such a way that they would shut down as soon as enrichment levels go beyond the permissible limit. But let’s not get swayed by his ‘Oh, why can’t you trust me?’ line. Those in the know of such matters realise that allowing Iran under Ahmadinejad, who loves to play the bad guy, to attain self-sufficiency in things nuclear could one day prove deadlier than giving a flame-thrower to a child.

But that’s beside the point. What really lies at the core of this disputation is this: in a world where almost every head of State crawls when Washington asks him to bend, Ahmadinejad derives pleasure in asking America to take a hike. That, in pure pop cultural terms, is the sign of the underdog whom we all love to love.

If we overlook Wednesday’s developments in Iran for a moment and consider the big picture, we’ll find that deep inside, every world leader knows that the odds of Iran nuking Israel are significantly smaller than America or Israel rushing in where non-fools fear to tread. In other words, another resource-rich nation in the West Asian neighbourhood at a time when power stems from a barrel of oil with a price tag above $100. But will anyone ever dare to say it out loud? I bet Ahmadinejad will. In his characteristic unsubtle manner.

First Published: Feb 16, 2012 22:23 IST