Yesterday, the Wonk Room’s Matt Duss noted that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) often incorrectly portrays Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as if Ahmadinejad has a significant role in formulating Iranian foreign policy. He doesn’t. Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and Iran’s National Security Council set Iran’s foreign policy.
Yesterday, Time’s Joe Klein pressed McCain on the issue, but McCain refused to concede he was wrong, saying he disagreed that Khamenei runs Iranian policy behind the scenes. McCain added that because the “average American” thinks Ahmadinejad is Iran’s leader, that’s good enough for him:
MCCAIN: I mean, the fact is [Ahmadinejad's] the acknowledged leader of that country and you may disagree, but that’s a uh, that’s your right to do so, but I think if you asked any average American who the leader of Iran is, I think they’d know.
But as the National Security Network’s Ilan Goldenberg notes, “if the ‘average American’ thinks that Ahmadinejad is the ultimate leader of Iran” it would be McCain’s job as president “to dissuade them of this notion – not reinforce it.”
Duss adds, “Focusing on the rants of Iran’s mercurial president enables McCain and other war hawks to create the impression that Iran is an implacable enemy, with whom negotiation would be pointless.”