Friday, June 05, 2009

Debate Backlash

President Mahmood Ahmadinejad stirred up a hornet's nest in his recent debate with Mir Hussein Mousavi, with even Ayatollah Ali Khamene'i weighing in:
"In the most significant development, Ahmadinejad appeared to have irked the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, over his performance in Wednesday night's debate with Mir Hossein Mousavi, his main opponent in next week's presidential election.

"'One doesn't like to see a nominee, for the sake of proving himself, seeking to negate somebody else,' Khamenei said in a speech commemorating the 20th anniversary of the death of the Iranian revolution's spiritual leader, Ayatollah Khomeini. 'I have no problem with debate, dialogue and criticism but these debates must take place within a religious framework.'"

The hornet's nest was raised among the old revolutionary establishment of which both Khamene'i and Mousavi form a part. As I suggested earlier, Ahmadinejad's strategy is apparently to discredit Mousavi by linking him to the country's kleptocratic elite, some of whom want to strike back:
"Musavi supporter and former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has officially asked the Iranian state broadcaster for air time to defend himself against Ahmadinejad’s claims.

"During the debate the president called Rafsanjani and his children corrupt. In response, Rafsanjani, who is the chairman of Iran's Expediency Council, accused Ahmadinejad of spreading lies and unfounded accusations about him.

"Two other officials, former parliament speaker Ali Akbar Nateq-Nouri and Mohsen Safaie Farahani, also challenged Ahmadinejad to face them in debates. Farahani had held high positions during Musavi’s term as prime minister in the 1980s, and Ahmadinejad accused him, among many others, of illegally gathering wealth."

These are not popular figures, and Ahmadinejad would like nothing better than to make the campaign about his challenge to them.

Khamene'i also criticized Mousavi for what amounts to insufficient fealty to revolutionary formulations of Iranian nationalism.

(Crossposted to American Footprints)



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