Originally Posted by foolsguinea
Ahmadi has always been more populist than hard-right, no? Why is this surprising to people?
I think his image in the West is based more on his notorious jackass inflammatory remarks about the Holocaust, homosexuals, etc., than on awareness of his overall policy vision. There's a popular perception that "OMG AHMADINEJAD = WACKO NUTJOB THEOCRAT", and it's hard to imagine anything more hard-right than that.
Actually, ISTM, Ahmadinejad is a garden-variety corrupt-thug politician who strategically uses reactionary bigotry to provoke anti-Iranian reactions and thus generate solidarity. It doesn't work all that well because a lot of Iranians still despise him, but it probably works better than anything else he's capable of.
That said, it does have to be noted that Ahmadinejad has described himself as a "principlist" or supporter of Islamist-right doctrine. AFAICT, he's tiffing with more conventional hard-liners at the moment not because he secretly harbors liberal/reformist convictions but because his most fundamental conviction seems to be "Ahmadinejad Is the Boss", which they oppose on the grounds that "Ayatollah Khamenei Is the Boss".
So I think the OP is somewhat off the mark when he says that Ahmadinejad is "the liberal" in this contest: rather, the liberals are out of the picture and it's an intranecine catfight within the religious right.