Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Ahmadinejad's Aides

Two top Iranian officials are in trouble today. One is newly confirmed Interior Minister Ali Kordan, who it turns out forged his diploma from Oxford. The other, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, who heads up the country's tourism ministry, is under assault in Parliament for saying Iranians are friends with the Israeli people, even though the distinction between Iran's opposition to Israel's existence as a nation-state and its lack of hostility to the people who live there is pretty standard fare.

When Kordan was confirmed a couple of weeks ago, Farideh Farhi couldn't explain how it happened, though a key seemed to be Ahmadinejad's claim that Supreme Leader Ali Khamane'i supported him, a claim that appears questionable. Kordan is also close to Parliament speaker Ali Larijani and may be a compromise candidate between Ahmadinejad's faction and mainline conservatives. The Interior Ministry supervises national elections, but in 2005 was accused of political bias under President Khatami so that institutions under conservative control could manage them instead. Something similar may be afoot here, as the mainline conservatives remain afraid of Ahmadinejad's interest in leftist economic reforms and consider him a foreign policy loose cannon. If this is the case, then the assault on both Kordan and Rahim Mashaie makes sense as part of a more general campaign to embarrass and weaken him.



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