Between the Mullahs and Bush | Nicholas Schmidle | April 2005 issue: “With Bush’s belligerent rhetoric toward Tehran on the rise, many students have turned to embrace Iranian nationalism, their country’s nuclear aspirations, and, by a twist of irony, the mullahs they have long despised. The population, Semati said, ‘has come to identify the nuclear program [and their support for it] with the folks in charge.’ In November 2004, thousands of students formed a human chain around the Atomic Energy Organization building in Tehran, not to protest the government’s gangbusters-like approach to pursuing nuclear technology, but their apparent willingness to compromise.

‘Pakistan and Israel have nuclear weapons,’ one student said to me while we walked on the former Shah’s palace grounds in northern Tehran. ‘Why does Bush not allow our country to have them? We are not crazy dinosaurs.’

In a country where foreign meddling in Iranian affairs is cast as the greatest bogeyman of all, the impression of American interference only plays into the mullahs’ hands. Bush’s belligerence may leave the mullahs still firmly in charge–clean undergarments and all.”

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