The Iranian president is bombastic, masterful at generating media coverage, and largely irrelevant to his country's political leadership
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gestures during a press conference in New York / Reuters
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has fallen on hard times. For months, that was the conclusion of some analysts and the suspicion of many Iran-watchers, but his visit last week to the United Nations seemed to cement this view as the new consensus. He has become a tarnished star, drawing the ire of powerful foes within Iran's conservative establishment and failing to sustain the energetic support he commanded only a few years ago. Worse yet, he is now seen as a marginal political figure, trying desperately to attract media attention in the vain hope of staying relevant.
If there is one other figure who could sympathize -- horrific as it may be for the both of them -- it's Sarah Palin.
Palin, like Ahmadinejad, was on top of the political heap only a few years ago. She was seen as a likely frontrunner for the 2012 Republican nomination, with waves of popular support across the country. Now, she isn't even among her party's presidential contenders. She occasionally dangles the prospect of a run, showing up in places like Iowa around the time of the Republican straw poll as a thinly veiled attempt to keep the buzz alive. But like Ahmadinejad -- who also loves to make a splash far larger than his actual influence merits -- Palin's time in the spotlight seems to have run out for good.
Ahmadinejad was once viewed as the leader of a new generation of Iranian politicians: non-clerics, war veterans, and Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) establishment figures. Now factions within the regime loyal to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei have branded him part of a "deviant current." The powerful clerical leadership is working hard to prevent him from designating his successor when his term runs out in 2013, and there's little reason to think they will fail.