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Ahmadinejad: The Secret History of Iran's Radical Leader - How He Shaped Iran's Politics and Foreign Relations

Ahmadinejad: The Secret History of Iran's Radical Leader

Who is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? What drives him? To whom, if anyone, does he answer? These are some of the questions that many people around the world have asked about Iran's former president, who has been one of the most controversial and polarizing figures in recent history. In this article, we will explore the life and career of Ahmadinejad, from his humble origins to his rise to power, from his nuclear ambitions to his Holocaust denial, from his populist appeal to his economic failure, from his confrontation with the West to his isolation at home. We will also try to understand what makes him tick, what influences him, and what legacy he leaves behind.

Ahmadinejad: The Secret History of Iran's Radical Leader

From a blacksmith's son to a civil engineer

Mahmud Ahmadinejad was born on 28 October 1956 in Garmsar, a small town in Semnan Province, about 100 kilometers southeast of Tehran. He was the fourth child of a blacksmith father who had a deep religious faith. His family moved to Tehran when he was still a child, hoping for better opportunities in the capital city. He attended a religious school where he excelled in mathematics and science. He also developed an interest in politics and religion, influenced by Ali Shariati's books that presented Islam as more than just a faith but also as a revolutionary ideology.

In 1976, he entered Tehran University to study civil engineering. There he joined a radical Islamic group called Daneshjuyan-e khatt-e emam (Students Following the Guideline of the Imam), which followed the teachings of Ayatollah Khomeini, who was then living in exile in Iraq. Ahmadinejad became an active member of this group, giving lectures on Islamic topics and participating in demonstrations against the shah's regime.

The revolutionary and the war veteran

When the 1979 revolution erupted, Ahmadinejad was among the thousands of students who stormed the US embassy in Tehran and took 52 American diplomats hostage for 444 days. He later claimed that he opposed the hostage-taking and only wanted to take over the embassy's intelligence section, but some of his former comrades disputed his account. He also joined the Hojjatiyyeh organization, a secretive and ultra-conservative group that believed in the imminent return of the Hidden Imam, the messianic figure of Shia Islam.

After the revolution, Ahmadinejad volunteered to fight in the Iran-Iraq war that lasted from 1980 to 1988. He served in the engineering corps of the Revolutionary Guard, the elite military force that was loyal to Khomeini. He was involved in several operations, such as building roads and bridges, clearing mines, and conducting sabotage missions behind enemy lines. He was wounded and exposed to chemical weapons during the war. He also witnessed the death and suffering of many of his comrades and friends.

The mayor of Tehran and the surprise president

After the war, Ahmadinejad continued his studies and obtained a PhD in transportation engineering from Tehran University in 1997. He also became a lecturer at his alma mater and a member of the Revolutionary Guard's political bureau. He entered politics in 2003, when he was appointed as the mayor of Tehran by the conservative-dominated city council. As the mayor, he implemented a number of policies that reflected his austere and religious views, such as banning billboards with Western images, segregating men and women in public places, and improving public transportation and services for the poor.

In 2005, he decided to run for president, despite having little national recognition or support from the establishment. He campaigned on a platform of anti-corruption, social justice, and Islamic values. He appealed to the lower classes and the rural areas that felt neglected by the reformist government of Mohammad Khatami. He also portrayed himself as a humble and honest man who lived in a modest house and drove an old car. He surprised everyone by winning the first round of the election with 19% of the votes, beating more prominent candidates such as former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and former speaker Mehdi Karroubi. He then faced Rafsanjani in a runoff, which he won with 62% of the votes, becoming Iran's sixth president.

The nuclear standoff and the Holocaust denial

One of Ahmadinejad's main challenges as president was to deal with Iran's nuclear program, which had been suspended under Khatami's administration due to international pressure and negotiations. Ahmadinejad resumed the program, claiming that Iran had a sovereign right to pursue peaceful nuclear energy for civilian purposes. However, many countries, especially the US and Israel, suspected that Iran was secretly developing nuclear weapons and posed a threat to regional and global security. They imposed sanctions on Iran and demanded that it halt its uranium enrichment activities. Ahmadinejad defied these demands and insisted that Iran would not give up its nuclear rights.

Ahmadinejad also provoked controversy by questioning the Holocaust and calling for Israel's destruction. In 2005, he said that Israel should be "wiped off the map" and that the Holocaust was a "myth" that was used to justify Israel's occupation of Palestine. In 2006, he hosted a conference in Tehran that invited Holocaust deniers and revisionists from around the world. He also sent a letter to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, inviting her to join him in an anti-Jewish alliance. These statements outraged many countries and organizations, especially those in Europe and North America, who condemned Ahmadinejad as an anti-Semite and a warmonger.

The populist leader and the economic crisis

Ahmadinejad tried to appeal to his base of supporters by portraying himself as a populist leader who cared for the poor and the oppressed. He traveled extensively across Iran, visiting remote villages and towns, distributing cash handouts and subsidies, promising jobs and housing, and listening to people's grievances. He also criticized the corruption and elitism of some of his political rivals, especially Rafsanjani and his family, who were accused of amassing wealth and influence through dubious means.

However, Ahmadinejad's economic policies failed to address Iran's structural problems and exacerbated its inflation and unemployment rates. He increased public spending without raising taxes or cutting subsidies, resulting in a huge budget deficit. He also interfered with the central bank's monetary policy, causing a depreciation of Iran's currency and a rise in prices. He ignored the advice of many experts and economists who warned him of the consequences of his mismanagement. He also alienated many businessmen and investors who felt insecure about his unpredictable decisions.

The Green Movement and the disputed election

In 2009, Ahmadinejad faced re-election against three other candidates: Mir Hossein Mousavi, a former prime minister who represented the reformist camp; Meh I'll continue to write the article. The isolation and the power struggle

Ahmadinejad's second term as president was marked by increasing isolation and power struggle within the Iranian regime. He faced opposition not only from the reformists and the moderates, but also from his former allies, such as the Supreme Leader Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guard. He clashed with them over several issues, such as political appointments, economic policies, foreign relations, and religious matters. He also tried to challenge Khamenei's authority and influence by promoting his own loyalists and followers, especially Mashaei, who was seen as a potential successor to Ahmadinejad.

One of the most notable incidents that revealed the rift between Ahmadinejad and Khamenei was the dismissal of Heydar Moslehi, the minister of intelligence, in April 2011. Ahmadinejad fired Moslehi without consulting Khamenei, who reinstated him a few hours later. Ahmadinejad then boycotted cabinet meetings for 11 days, until he was forced to back down by Khamenei's public intervention. This episode showed that Ahmadinejad had overstepped his bounds and that Khamenei was still the ultimate decision-maker in Iran.

Another incident that exposed the tension between Ahmadinejad and Khamenei was the arrest of Ahmadinejad's press adviser, Ali Akbar Javanfekr, in September 2011. Javanfekr was accused of insulting Khamenei and violating Islamic norms by publishing an article that questioned the mandatory wearing of hijab for women. Ahmadinejad tried to prevent Javanfekr's arrest by personally visiting his office and confronting the security forces, but he failed to save his aide from being detained. Javanfekr was later sentenced to six months in prison and banned from journalism for three years.

The end of an era and the legacy

Ahmadinejad left office in 2013 after two turbulent terms as president. He was succeeded by Hassan Rouhani, a moderate cleric who won the election with a landslide victory over Ahmadinejad's protégé, Saeed Jalili. Rouhani promised to end Iran's international isolation, improve its economy, and pursue a more pragmatic and conciliatory approach to its nuclear program. He also pledged to respect civil rights and freedoms, and to heal the wounds of the 2009 crackdown on the Green Movement.

What impact did Ahmadinejad have on Iran's domestic politics, foreign relations, and society? On one hand, he can be credited with some achievements, such as expanding Iran's infrastructure, increasing its scientific and technological capabilities, defending its national sovereignty and dignity, and mobilizing its poor and rural population. On the other hand, he can be blamed for many failures, such as mismanaging Iran's economy, antagonizing its neighbors and allies, isolating it from the international community, violating human rights and freedoms, and polarizing its political system.

Ahmadinejad's personality, beliefs, and motivations are complex and contradictory. He is a man who is gripped by apocalyptic visions, yet capable of switching spiritual allegiances in the quest for power. He is a man who is tough enough to fight street battles in the name of Ayatollah Khomeini, yet crude enough to invite the German chancellor to join him in an anti-Jewish alliance. He is a man who is sophisticated enough to win the support of the Revolutionary Guard, yet naive enough to lose it over a ministerial dispute. He is a man who is full of surprises, yet predictable in his defiance.


In this article, we have explored the life and career of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's former president who has been one of the most controversial and polarizing figures in recent history. We have seen how he rose from a modest background to a powerful position, how he pursued his nuclear ambitions and denied the Holocaust, how he appealed to his populist base and failed to address his economic crisis, how he faced a massive wave of protests and opposition after his disputed re-election in 2009, how he became increasingly isolated from his former allies within the Iranian regime, and how he left office in 2013 after two turbulent terms. We have also tried to understand what makes him tick, what influences him, and what legacy he leaves behind.


Here are some frequently asked questions about Ahmadinejad and his history, with brief answers.

  • What is Ahmadinejad's current status and role in Iran? Ahmadinejad is currently a private citizen who has no official role or position in Iran. He has been banned from running for president again by the Guardian Council, a constitutional body that vets candidates for elections. He has also been marginalized by the Iranian establishment, especially by Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guard, who view him as a threat and a nuisance. He occasionally makes public statements or appearances, but he has little influence or support among the Iranian people.

  • What is Ahmadinejad's relationship with Mashaei? Ahmadinejad and Mashaei are close friends and allies who share a common vision of Iran and Islam. Mashaei is Ahmadinejad's chief of staff, his son's father-in-law, and his potential successor. Mashaei is also a controversial figure who has been accused of being a leader of a "deviant current" that promotes Iranian nationalism, messianism, and occultism over Islamic orthodoxy and loyalty to Khamenei. Mashaei has been barred from running for president by the Guardian Council, and he has been targeted by the security forces and the judiciary for his alleged involvement in corruption and sedition.

  • What is Ahmadinejad's stance on the nuclear deal? Ahmadinejad has been critical of the nuclear deal that was signed in 2015 between Iran and six world powers, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). He has argued that the deal was a betrayal of Iran's nuclear rights and interests, and that it did not bring any benefits to Iran in terms of lifting sanctions or improving its economy. He has also accused Rouhani's government of being weak and submissive to the West, and of failing to protect Iran's dignity and sovereignty.

  • What is Ahmadinejad's view on Israel? Ahmadinejad has been notorious for his hostile and inflammatory rhetoric against Israel. He has repeatedly called for Israel's destruction, questioned the Holocaust, and denied Israel's right to exist. He has also supported Palestinian militant groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah, and opposed any peace negotiations or normalization with Israel. He has claimed that Israel is a "cancerous tumor" that must be removed from the region, and that it is behind many of the problems and conflicts in the Middle East.

  • What is Ahmadinejad's vision for Iran? Ahmadinejad has a vision for Iran that is based on his interpretation of Islam, his messianic beliefs, and his populist agenda. He believes that Iran should be a leader of the Islamic world, a champion of the oppressed nations, and a challenger of the arrogant powers. He believes that Iran should pursue its nuclear program as a symbol of its scientific and technological prowess, and as a deterrent against its enemies. He believes that Iran should prepare for the imminent return of the Hidden Imam, who will bring justice and peace to the world. He believes that Iran should serve the poor and the pious masses, who are the true heirs of the revolution.



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