Ahmadinejad: "The Future is Promising" Really?

Back in April, the Iranian President agreed to be interviewed on This Week. It had been a long time coming, after years of denied requests. The best I could figure (backed up by Iran experts inside and outside the Administration) was that Ahmadinejad wanted to show his own voters that he wasn't the embarrassing pariah his opponents were painting him out to be. Sure enough, the interview was shown on Iranian television and photos of the President meeting an American journalist made the papers too.

Ahmadinejad squeezed in our interview between his tirade at the UN Human Rights Conference in Geneva and a day of campaigning in "provinces" outside Tehran where he had strong support. The campaign was just heating up then, and the President and his team seemed pretty confident about the outcome, suggesting that he would have more concrete suggestions for improving relations with the United States after the election.

"We will help to bring change about," Ahmadinejad said. "The future is promising."

Wonder if he's feeling as confident about his own future today. Karim Sadjapour has a smart take on where the race stands here, and the NY Times reports that some polling showing Ahmadinejad trailing Mir Houssein Moussavi. Who knows how meaningful those polls are. But the opposition has flooded Tehran with supporters, Ahmadinejad seems to be running scared, and close observers in the US government believe both that large numbers of voters are in play and that the Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, is not determined to save Ahmadinejad from himself.

That's one reason why Secretary of State Clinton made it clear to me last Sunday that any new moves from the U.S. would not come until after the election is over (which may require a runoff between Friday's two top finishers). Just a guess, but one man who may be secretly rooting for Ahmadinejad is Bibi Netanyahu. The Israeli Prime Minister focused first and foremost on eliminating the Iranian nuclear threat knows that it will be more difficult to make his case if Ahmadinejad is out of power.

--George Stephanopoulos

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