Gee we haven't heard Roger Cohen soft-soaping Ahmadinejad or Iran in a while but he's back and hasn't learnt his lesson. This latest 'analysis' claims that Ahmadinejad is mainly a celebrity these days and doesn't have the clout of days past. In fact, says Cohen, he is an object of amusement among the clerical powers-that-be. Fine, Cohen may be right to that tiny degree, but to assume that Iran's murderous intentions towards its own dissidents as well as Israel was entirely in the hands of Ahmadinejad so, consequently, there is less to worry about is preposterous. We don't know exactly what the regime has up its sleeves, and neither does Roger. Can anyone really take him seriously anymore, especially today as the two American hikers have, in fact, been released despite Roger's use of that as an example of Ahmadinejad diminished insider cred.
Here's a cute observation from Jeffrey Goldberg in 2009 about Roger's tendency to have to eat his words:
"It's inevitable: Roger Cohen writes a column either defending the Iranian government; excoriating Israel for being unkind to the Iranian government; describing Iran as a Middle East version of Scarsdale; calling for negotiations with an I-just-realized-they're-odious-but-no-matter Iranian government; whatever -- and almost immediately, Ahmadinejad, or one of his minions, pulls the football out from under him."
More importantly, here is Ahmad Batebi one of the speakers from today's session of We Have a Dream, UN Watch's alternative to Durban III conference. You can also read his Message for Ahmadinejad released today. Batebi may, just possibly, have a better grasp of the situation in Iran than does old Rog.
** Update: A Washington Post editorial has a better read of why Ahmadinejad's current position within the regime is becoming more delicate: "The release of the two men is not a humanitarian gesture, as Mr. Ahmadinejad would have it, but the suspension of a criminal act — hostage-taking — by the regime. Yet the populist president has tried to use the freeing of the Americans to portray himself as a moderate who can do business with the West — in contrast to the hard-line clergy with whom he has been engaged in a prolonged power struggle. Though he seemingly won the battle to release Mr. Bauer and Mr. Fattal, Mr. Ahmadinejad has been steadily losing the political war, in part because Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has little appetite for the president’s sporadic efforts at detente. In the view of Iran’s hard-liners, there is no need even to feint at compromise with the United States and its allies over the ongoing effort to build nuclear weapons, despite the squeeze of economic sanctions."