There was once a tiny, but loud and scary man named Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
As Iranian negotiators went into nuclear talks in Vienna and issued threatening statements while the talks were ongoing on Monday, it seemed they might be trying to channel his energy, yet with a more sophisticated approach.
This could make them even more dangerous.
From 2005-2013, Ahmadinejad stared down and ignored then-US President George W. Bush, who had invaded Iraq.
In fact, he ignored pressure from the EU, the UN and the entire world, and barreled forward with progress in Iran’s nuclear program.
He proudly threatened to wipe Israel off the map.
Ahmadinejad trumpeted Holocaust-denial at a level that even other Iranians might have been embarrassed to do – certainly in a public way before a global audience.
So Ahmadinejad is actually responsible for successfully stonewalling the US and the entire West for several years, and much of the easy progress Iran has made this year dates back to the knowledge they gained in his era.
In some ways this approach is what Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi seems to be trying – a sort of Ahmadinejad 2.0, after his more pragmatic predecessor, Hassan Rouhani.
Demand, demand and demand more – and if you do not get what you want, stonewall for months at a time and press forward with more scary nuclear progress.
RAISI'S OPENING negotiating positions on Monday were preposterous.
There is no way that even the EU, let alone the US, would agree to lifting all sanctions (including non-nuclear) before the Islamic Republic returns to the 2015 nuclear deal’s limitations.
The Biden administration – and the EU even more so – are desperate for a deal and ready to make new concessions to Raisi beyond the JCPOA – but not that far.
But there have been signs all along that this could all be a ploy and that Raisi could be a smarter and more dangerous version of Ahmadinejad.
Ahmadinejad’s downfall was that he did not know where to stop and how to collect his concessions.