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Why U.S. Neocons Want Ahmadinejad to Win

American conservatives and Iranian hard-liners need each other.

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The U.S. government raises concerns about Iran's apparent election fraud while remaining silent in the face of rigged presidential elections by such allied governments as Egypt and Azerbaijan and the complete lack of national elections in such allied countries as Saudi Arabia and Oman.

It is highly unlikely that Ahmadinejad actually won the majority of the vote in Friday's Iranian election, certainly not the 63 percent granted to him by the Interior Ministry he controls.

However, he and other hard-liners have been able to dominate the country as much as they have in large part as a result of their ability to play on the overwhelming resentment of Iranians from across the ideological spectrum regarding U.S. policy toward their country, ranging from the overthrow of their last truly democratic government by the CIA back in 1953, through the quarter-century of support for the shah's oppressive rule, to the shortsighted and hypocritical policies of more recent years.

Americans have many legitimate concerns regarding Iranian policies, Ahmadinejad's inflammatory rhetoric, and the apparent stealing of the presidential election. However, as long as U.S. policy appears to be based upon such opportunistic double standards rather than consistent principles, Ahmadinejad's inflammatory rhetoric will continue to find an audience, and the hard-liners will still be able to play on the fears and resentments of the Iranian people in their efforts to cling to power.

Stephen Zunes is a professor of politics and chairman of Middle Eastern studies at the University of San Francisco and serves as a senior policy analyst for Foreign Policy in Focus .