There is nothing more exciting to watch on Iranian state-run television than another spectacular missile launch followed by a fiery speech by Ahmadinejad. Yet, the scenario is predictable.
On Wednesday, the Iranian armed forces successfully test fired a new generation of surface-to-surface missiles.
"The launch of the Sejil missile signifies Iran's determination to promote its conventional defense capability," announced Iran's Defense Ministry spokesman.
Addressing a large crowd in the northern city of Sari in Mazandaran Province, President Ahmadinejad cautioned Iran's enemies to avoid using the language of force against the Islamic Republic. He also warned possible invaders of a crushing response should they commit an act of aggression against Iran.
"The Iranian nation defends its honor and whichever power that wants to stand against the movement of the Iranian nation, the Iranian nation will crush it under its foot and slap it on the mouth," Ahmadinejad said.
His tone has quickly changed from the tone in the congratulatory letter he'd sent to President-elect Barack Obama just a week earlier.
What happened? Is this because Barack Obama has not responded yet?
The truth of the matter is: it is neither. Ahmadinejad has been standing on shaky ground for some time. He is being attacked openly in the Iranian media, something that could not have happened without the knowledge and approval of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Just recently, the Majlis (Iranian parliament) fired Interior Minister Ali Kordan, a friend and supporter of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for faking an honorary doctorate degree he had supposedly received from Oxford University. This, along with other allies being forced out from key government positions, has been weakening Ahmadinejad's chances for re-election next June. But this is not all; Iran's financial crisis and falling oil prices are becoming subjects of discontent amongst many in the Iranian elite. I recently watched a financial expert on Iranian Al Alam TV criticizing the Iranian president for his inability to deal with the country's financial crisis.
Now, much has also been said about the congratulatory letter Ahmadinejad sent to Obama.
Many analysts have warned that Obama "risked a trap with Ahmadinejad's letter," and recommended that it be ignored. Others suggested that the President-elect reply to it, but that he ought to take his time, in order to prevent Ahmadinejad from taking credit for beginning a dialogue with the United States without conditions, thereby rehabilitating his political standing. The problem with these two arguments is that Barack Obama, once sworn in as president next January, will find himself in no position to ignore Ahmadinejad or wait until the summer for a regime change in Iran.
Throughout his campaign, President-elect Barack Obama has promised to withdraw combat troops from Iraq within 16 months and to bolster forces battling Taliban and al Qaeda militants in Afghanistan. Iran has the key for achieving these objectives.
The Islamic Republic maintains close ties with one of Iraq's Prime Minister, Nouri el-Maliki's coalition partners, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, or ISCI, which was formed in Iran by Iraqi Shiite exiles. Without the support of ISCI, Maliki cannot maintain power. Iran has also been arming several Shiite factions in Iraq including Muqtada al Sadr's Mahdi Army. Barack Obama will need the cooperation of the Iranians not to turn life in Iraq into hell once he decides to reduce U.S. combat troops there.
Also on the Afghanistan front, Barack Obama might need to cozy up to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. According to a senior U.S. military official who was quoted in the Washington Post on condition of anonymity, "The Bush administration has kept Tehran at arm's length, but as we look to the future, it would be helpful to have an interlocutor to explore shared objectives."
What are these shared objectives?
There is no love lost between the Iranians and the Taliban. In 1998, a war between the Islamic Republic and the Taliban regime almost erupted after Taliban forces killed nine Iranian diplomats in the central Afghan city of Mazar el Sharif. Just this week an Iranian diplomat was abducted in Pakistan after his driver was shot dead. All leads point towards Taliban insurgents.
Once a deal is struck between the United States and Iran on Iraq and Afghanistan, discussions over Iran's nuclear file will follow.
Obama has stated that he was prepared to hold tough presidential negotiations without preconditions with Iran; it seems that he may just have to do so earlier than he might have expected.
Jamal Dajani produces the Mosaic Intelligence Report on Link TV.