Former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Ahmadinejad Says Open to Talks with Trump, Questions Khamenei's Foreign Policy

Saturday, 06/15/2024

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the controversial former Iranian president, has criticized the Supreme Leader's foreign policy, expressing willingness to engage in economic relations with the US and hold talks with Donald Trump.

Ahmadinejad, who defied the West during his presidency (2005-2013) now argues for a foreign policy perspective that aims to surpass the binary division between East and West, in contrast to Khamenei's notable "Looking East" strategy.

"What exactly does the policy of East versus West entail? It appears to be a construct of our imagination," he said in a recent interview. "The most significant economic relationship exists between China and the US."

"What impediment exists for US investment in Iran's oil industry?" Ahmadinejad asked while stating that he would even negotiate with ex-US president Donald Trump.

During the interview, the contentious politician pondered, "For how much longer do we desire to remain in conflict with the US?" He lamented, "Following the revolution, there was potential to resolve matters with the US, but certain individuals occupied the embassy, complicating matters."

The Iran hostage crisis, spanning from 1979 to 1981, involved militants seizing 66 American citizens at the US embassy in Tehran, keeping 52 of them hostage for 444 days. Occurring amidst the tumultuous aftermath of Iran's Islamic revolution and the fall of the Pahlavi monarchy, the crisis profoundly soured US-Iranian relations for years to come.

The interview with Khabarfoori, a website in Iran, was released on Tuesday following Ahmadinejad's disqualification by the unelected 12-member Guardian Council for the forthcoming snap presidential election. However, according to Khabarfoori, the interview was recorded when the former president was still unaware of the Guardian’s decision.

Ahmadinejad was also barred from running in the 2017 and 2021 presidential elections by the Guardian Council controlled mainly by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. After his first disqualification, the former foreign policy hardliner, began criticizing the political machine set up by Ali Khamenei, at one point even attacking the Supreme Leader himself.

In a different segment of the interview, Ahmadinejad paid tribute to the era of the Pahlavi monarchy. “They [The Pahlavi monarchy] contributed to the country even before the [Islamic] revolution took place,” he said. “While we may have reservations about certain methods they employed, they also aimed to address inflation and improve welfare during that period.”

Ahmadinejad's remarks are contextualized by the fact that the last Shah of Iran, deposed during the 1979 revolution, is consistently depicted in a negative light by the current ruling clerical establishment.

Walking a delicate line over the past two years, he mostly remained silent to avoid backlash from loyalists allied with the Supreme Leader.

Known for his outspokenness on regime corruption and clandestine activities, Ahmadinejad notably admitted that Israel's Mossad had successfully pilfered significant documents concerning Iran's nuclear pursuits from within the nation.

Furthermore, in 2021, he alleged that the highest-ranking Iranian intelligence official tasked with thwarting Israeli espionage within Iran was actually an operative for Israel.

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