Monday, December 10, 2007

Ahmadinejad's Power

For some time now, I've heard rumors that Iran's President Mahmood Ahmadinejad has succeeded in accumulating more power to his office than previous Iranian presidents. Today's Christian Science Monitor takes the same position, but rather than the quiet institutional consolidation I've been hoping for an analysis of, the article focuses entirely on gesture and incident:
"The coup de grâce that has still unsettled Iran's political establishment was the resignation – or forced removal – of chief nuclear negotiator and Khamenei protégé Ali Larijani. After his sixth attempt to resign was accepted in October, Mr. Larijani was replaced by Ahmadinejad loyalist Saeed Jalili, who effectively shut down negotiations with the European Union in his debut solo meeting.

"'The guts! Who could have done that? It was unimaginable a few years ago,' says one veteran analyst in Tehran of Larijani's replacement. 'It is damaging and it is definitely a shrinking of the velayat-e faqih [Iran's rule of the supreme jurisprudent]. It's an advance by Ahmadinejad, and a retreat by Khamenei.'

"'Khamenei has never liked to be seen as overtly meddling…. But Ahmadinejad's bold and provocative moves ... have unsettled the political elite,' says Farideh Farhi, an Iran expert at the University of Hawaii. They 'are wondering if Khamenei is supportive of these rather partisan moves or unable to stop Ahmadinejad.'

"While theories abound about the sidelining of Larijani, some argue that the president's wide latitude is a function of trust, compared to ex-president Mohammad Khatami and two-time president Ali Akbar Rafsanjani."

The last paragraph fits with the article's overall tone, which tends to explain these developments as the product of either personal style or the inactions of Khamene'i. Again, I think there's probably more going on than that behind the scenes. However, Ahmadinejad's staying power despite the continuing serious opposition from throughout the Iranian political establishment is noteworthy, as is the manner in which he has driven Iranian policy since taking office.



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