Ahmadinejad’s first inauguration four years ago was attended by envoys from 87 countries. This time, fewer than half are expected to attend.

Many “historic figures of the revolution” are also likely to stay away, signaling that Ahmadinejad might find it hard to regain enough legitimacy to lead Iran in a time of crisis.

Obama, however, could give Ahmadinejad a respite by welcoming him as a legitimate negotiating partner. Ahmadinejad’s advisers talk of a possible September meeting with Obama in New York during the UN General Assembly session. Such a meeting would give both men the photo-ops they need to boost their respective political fortunes.

But what if Ahmadinejad is already mortally wounded politically? To cover his weakness, he may meet Obama and make noises about “solving problems through negotiations.”

As far as Obama is concerned, that would amount to fool’s gold.