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Secor on Ahmadinejad at the UN

And yet much has changed in Iran since Ahmadinejad took office, in 2005. He came to power as the establishment’s candidate; he inherited an economy that was sick but not wasted, and a polity that was disillusioned but not completely cynical. Today, the President is an isolated figure. His relationship with the Supreme Leader has soured. Last spring, Ahmadinejad became the first Iranian President to be summoned to parliament for hostile questioning, his close allies were barred from running for office, and one of his top aides was sentenced to prison. The Leader has even toyed with the idea of abolishing the Presidency.

Ahmadinejad’s economic policies stoked inflation well before the latest round of sanctions, but the current situation is far more severe. In the past year, the Iranian rial has depreciated by two hundred and fifty per cent against the dollar; official statistics put inflation at about twenty-four per cent, which means that it’s probably higher; and the price of chicken has increased threefold, leading to a riot in the city of Neyshabur, and an outpouring of “chicken crisis” jokes on the Web. Under the circumstances, New York must have been a welcome respite for Ahmadinejad, and not only because of the ready availability of an affordable chicken dinner. Here he’s a big man; in Tehran, he’s approaching irrelevance.

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