WASHINGTON, Dec. 14 (UPI) -- Should the world take Iran's hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad seriously? No, I mean seriously!
Consider his recent antics: First, Ahmadinejad declared to a group of students in Tehran in October that "Israel should be wiped off the map." Israel certainly takes him seriously.
If that first statement were not bad enough, and even before the dust from that storm he created had time to settle, the Iranian president suggested Israel be moved to Europe -- somewhere between Germany and Austria. Now the European Union is taking him seriously.
Then, while in Mecca last week, attending a meeting of heads of state of the Organization of Islamic Conference, Ahmadinejad takes advantage of the presence of the international media at an extraordinary summit called by Saudi King Abdullah, and does it again -- this time by saying he doubted the Holocaust ever took place. Now he has the Saudis furious.
So what exactly is the Iranian president trying to accomplish by stirring world public opinion against him? And this at a time when he should be trying to appease the world, showing them that Iran, even with nuclear weapons, can be a responsible nation.
"What Ahmadinejad is doing is making very calculated statements with a clear purpose in mind," said Alireza Jafarzadeh, president of Strategic Policy Consulting, and a former Washington spokesman for Iran's parliament in exile, the National Council of Resistance of Iran.
Jafarzadeh is the one who revealed to the world in August 2002 that the Iranians were building nuclear facilities in Natanz and Arak.
"Ahmadinejad is trying to rally the Revolutionary Guards and the most radical elements in the regime to be fully behind him and boost their morale," Jafarzadeh told United Press International.
At the same time, Ahmadinejad is also trying to reach out to the Muslim population in the Arab world, he believes. Hence the visit last week to Tehran by Hamas' leader Khalid Mashal.
"Ahmadinejad was placed at the head of the Islamic republic by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei with the aim to head toward a confrontation with the United States," said Jafarzadeh.
"I believe he was tasked with a mission when he was selected by Khamenei," claims Jafarzadeh. His mission is two pronged.
-- To get Iran its first nuclear weapon as quickly as possible and at whatever cost.
-- Establishing an Islamic republic in Iraq, or at least gaining a very significant influence over Iraqi affairs.
If Khamenei were not planning for a confrontation, he would not have chosen Ahmadinejad as president, he would have backed a less conservative candidate such Hashemi Rafsanjani.
"Ahmadinejad's mission is not to negotiate," says Jafarzadeh, "but to confront. That is what he is doing on the nuclear side, and that is what he is doing in the entire region."
While Jafarzadeh may see Ahmadinejad as someone with a clear-cut mission, some analysts question whether Ahmadinejad may be entirely in control of his emotions. Consider this following conversation, caught on videotape, Ahmadinejad had with a high-ranking ayatollah after his return from New York where he addressed the U.N. General Assembly in September:
"The last day when I was speaking before the (U.N. General) Assembly, one of our group told me when I started to say, 'In the name of God the Almighty, the Merciful,' he saw a light around me, and I was placed inside this aura and I felt it myself. I felt the atmosphere suddenly change, and for those 27 or 28 minutes the leaders of the world did not blink. When I say they did not bat an eyelid, I am not exaggerating because I was looking at them and they were wrapped," said Ahmadinejad.
Indeed, Ahmadinejad may feel that at times he projects an aura and captivates his audience. And because of his close relationship with the ayatollahs, he may believe he is closer to the divine than most. Still, that did not prevent him from not wanting to take a chance that his prayers may go unanswered, preferring to rely on dirty tricks to secure the elections in Iraq for his candidates.
Just a day before Iraq's elections, border policemen seized a tanker that was trying to cross from Iran filled with thousands of forged ballots, reported The New York Times on Wednesday.
The paper, quoting officials, said the tanker was seized in the evening by agents with the U.S.-trained border protection force at the Iraqi town of Badra, after crossing at Munthirya on the Iraqi border.
Iraqi police officials say the border police found several thousand partly completed ballots inside. When interrogated by the police, the driver admitted at least three more similar trucks also filled with fake ballots had crossed different border posts.
So should such a man be taken seriously? The Iraqis certainly are now.