November 2013, before the chalkboard in a university lecture hall. The former President travels in a public bus to and from work every day after leaving office, an example of humility unknown in the history of former world leaders. (This image from: Radio Free Europe - and its article is apparently and needlessly anti-Ahmedi).
Since Mahmoud Ahmedinejad left office and returned to his former profession of lecturer in the University, voices of support of common Iranians have been gradually but clearly audible. A lot of them want him back. Iran's Shargh Daily reported that the former President will run in 2017. Though Ahmedinejad hasn't confirmed it in so many words, he has lately spoken on the possibility of returning to politics.
Israeli sources are edgy and have already started dishing dirt, claiming that the "unwelcomed hardliners" are putting Ahmedinejad on the forefront as their key resource to contest the "popular" Hassan Rouhani. Three years ago when Ahmedinejad completed both terms of presidency and stepped down, the same sources posted spuriously derogatory comments alleging that after leaving office the former President was "abandoned and isolated." If he was ""abandoned and isolated"" three years ago, why would his ""hardline"" supporters use him, of all persons, as a card up their sleeves to challenge the so-called popularity of Hassan Rouhani in 2017? But mindless propagandists seldom explain the lack of logic within their own arguments.
According to Al-Monitor (a subtly pro-"moderate" source), some observers are of the opinion that it might be risky for Ahmedinejad to run against Rouhani because of the latter's "success of nuclear negotiations behind him."
Taking a closer look ..
Considering that the US had planned its policy on Iran's nuclear program months if not years before the 2013 elections, how much credit can Rouhani's Government claim for this 'political grand slam'? American officials were determined that they would negotiate a deal only if a "hardliner" was replaced by a "moderate." During Ahmedinejad's entire eight years in office the White House would not suggest, wouldn't even consider, a brief talk with Tehran simply because they saw the President as a ""hardliner"" who wanted to ""wipe Israel off the map."" The question of Ahmedinejad's success or lack of it hardly arises as he was never given a chance to take up the matter in the first place.
By the time the nuclear deal was finalized and sanctions lifted in mid 2015, Western leaders were getting cold feet helplessly watching the rising strength and occupations by the Al Qaeda factions across the Middle-East. Despite using the terror organization as their pawn for proxy wars, they also (silently and sullenly) realized the need for a regional Shiia rival to counter the influence of the financiers and trainers of the proxy fighters based in the oil rich Arabian peninsula. Fortunately for Iran, the nuclear crisis posed an obstacle to US plans for balancing the growing threat of Al Qaeda. The time and political climate was suitable, so the deal went through exclusively for the regional interest of US and Israel. Neither the Iranian President nor his foreign minister displayed extraordinary negotiating skills other than their tendency of getting talked down. If it wasn't under the watchful eyes of the Supreme Leader, major Iranian interests would have been sold out.
Presently, something worrisome for Rouhani's government is the likelihood of its much talked about nuclear deal being rolled back any time in the near future. US and European governments have been sulking over Iran's ballistic missile tests with contradictory statements that could violate the terms of the JCPOA. Head of Iran's atomic energy organization has stated that if they fail to keep up their promise, Iran would "return to conditions before the conclusion of the deal." But the biggest source of instability for the agreement comes from the US presidential candidates who have been flexing muscles with threats of tearing up the deal. The Iranian Supreme Leader has responded with powerful words that he would "set fire" to the entire nuclear agreement if ever the threat from presidential candidates was realized. If the need to trash the agreement does arise prior to May 2017 (which isn't impossible), Hassan Rouhani could lose what he sees as his most needed political boast.
Unlike the short-sighted approach of Pakistanis and Indians, the Iranians (middle-class and poor only, not the elites) tend to perceive deeper and more pragmatically. They aren't interested in mudslinging and they never mix politics with emotions nor glamour. Eloquent speeches, charming rhetoric, and social eminence are least important. Their focal point is business. It's only when the leader they have chosen gets down to work, the people cautiously monitor the quantum of promises delivered. That's the deciding factor for the future, whether or not they should continue supporting that leader. The presence of this strategic approach has been proven from the diversity of choices of common Iranians in the past, from Khatami in 1997 (who hadn't yet turned wily) to Ahmedinejad in 2005, whoever they perceived as best for the job with the passage of time. In 2009, Ahmedinejad's biggest rival, Hussein Musavi, an Azeri (and a proponent of the "green revolution" sponsored by George Soros), couldn't gain enough support against Ahmedi in his home province of Azerbaijan where majority of the Azeris felt Ahmedi connected with them far better.
The politicized mindset and sentiments of a coterie of wealthy elites, academics and students in Tehran and a few other big cities do not represent the priorities of average Iranians living in towns and rural sectors, the ones who consist of the bulk of the country's 80 million population. While the "moderates" have substantial support for their glitzy political agendas in large cities, it's quite a different scenario elsewhere in the country. Affordable housing, food, clothing, healthcare and of course sustainable employment are the issues that constantly matter.
Hassan Rouhani's Government has spent the first three years of its tenure reaching a nuclear deal, after which it has been striving to seal lucrative trade agreements with Turkey, India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, EU etc., barely able to conceal its eagerness to restore the ostentation at official and urban levels that existed in the pre-revolution era. With less than one year remaining, the Government may now want to focus on its political agenda preparing for 2017. That doesn't leave them with much time for working on bringing the changes needed in the lives of the middle-class and the poor. Unless election 2017 involves some sort of gerrymandering by the "gracious moderates" (which was apparently so in 2013 to a certain extent), it is the economic performance affecting the lives of the common people that will contribute to the success or failure of the present Government.
Last but not least in a nutshell, the Axis of Resistance - the last bastion of sovereignty in the pan Islamic world - needs the presence of Mahmoud Ahmedinejad for preserving its spirit of sacrifice and continuing the fight for independence at a period when it is facing its biggest challenge through large scale invasions by marauders hired by the hegemonists.