Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a President unlike any other Iran has known: belligerent, naive, at once a fundamentalist and nationalist, and a dark genius at mobilizing Iranian public opinion. In the first year of his presidency, he has risen out of obscurity to become one of the most troublesome and noteworthy leaders in the world. His uncompromising stand on his country's right to enrich uranium has increased the threat of further turmoil in the Middle East and edged the U.S. and Iran closer to a military confrontation than ever before in recent times.
Iranians elected Ahmadinejad, 49, with the clear mandate of improving their economic lives. His campaign slogan, "We can do it," implied fighting corruption, not building the Bomb. Often the President's rhetoric like his suggestion that Israel be moved to Alaska or maybe Europe seems outrageous to Iranians, who are more interested in engaging the world than in eliciting its condemnation. But the former mayor of Tehran and Revolutionary Guards commander has formulated a message that the majority of Iranians agree with: it's time for Iran to be strong again, and no time is better than now. He has made nuclear power an issue of national pride, and so far, his position that the U.S. "can't do a thing" is proving true. It's a dangerous gamble, though, because it may force America to flex its military muscle to prove him wrong.