Best Known For
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is best known as the controversial sixth president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, serving from 2005 to 2013.
After the 1979 Iranian revolution, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad entered politics. He was elected President of Iran in 2005. His pursuit of a nuclear program and anti-Israeli rhetoric has put him at odds with the United States and much of Europe.
Muammar al-Qaddafi rose through the ranks of the military and seized control of Libya in 1969. He demonstrated eccentric behavior and an oppressive ruling style until he was overthrown and killed in a revolution.
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Ahmadinejad won the election by a landslide, collecting 17 million of the 27 million votes cast.
Whether a masterful politico or an honest broker, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad developed a strong bond with Tehran's deeply religious working class. Ahmadinejad wanted to continue to live in his own house after being elected president,
until security advisers forced him to move. He took out the expensive furniture and rugs in the presidential palace and replaced them with less expensive furnishings. He refused the VIP seat on the presidential plane and eventually replaced it with a cargo plane. He also spoke in blue-collar colloquialisms in his speeches and presentations. While Tehran's political elite ridiculed him for his mannerisms, the behavior played well with many Iranians, who saw their president as "one of them."
After his presidential win, Ahmadinejad became an imposing international figure. His hard-line stance on Iran's right to develop nuclear power heightened tensions with the U.S. In a September 2005 speech before the United Nations, Ahmadinejad professed his desire to pursue Iran's nuclear technology program, which he claimed was for peaceful purposes. At the same time, he condemned the United States for not only proliferating weapons of mass destruction, but also sowing a "climate of intimidation and injustice." He issued a veiled threat that "if some try to impose their will on the Iranian people...we will reconsider our entire approach to the nuclear issue."
From May 2006 to March 2007, the United Nations Security Council passed a series of resolutions requiring Iran to terminate its nuclear enrichment programs. It imposed sanctions on nuclear material and technology entering Iran, and also placed further restrictions on imports and exports with the exception of development and humanitarian aid. The Iranian leader remained defiant.
Ahmadinejad also fanned the flames of confrontation with his anti-Israeli rhetoric in public speeches. In addition to questioning the realities of the Holocaust, the Iranian leader showed his distaste toward Israel in October 2005, at the World Without Zionism Conference in Tehran. He spoke of an epic battle between Islam and the "World of Ignorance," a West led by Israel and the Zionist movement. Following the conference, he was also quoted as saying that Israel should be "wiped off the map." Ahmadinejad stated in a news conference on January 14, 2006, that the meaning of his statements had been exaggerated and misinterpreted. "There is no new policy, they created a lot of hue and misinterpreted. It is clear what we say, 'Let the Palestinians participate in free elections and they will say what they want.'"
Domestically, Ahmadinejad was able to play to his religiously conservative superiors while also appealing to those who elected him. During his first term, he banned Western music while at the same time lobbying to allow women to attend sporting events. He increased spending on social programs to fulfill a campaign pledge, while simultaneously ordering the confiscation of satellite dishes in mass raids.
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