Thursday, August 06, 2009

Conflicting Religious Legitimacies

After discussing the special relationship Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claims with the Mahdi, the Hidden Imam who holds ultimate religious authority in Twelver Shi'ism,Mazyar Mokfi and Charles Recknagel raise an interesting point:
"All of this could be seen as religious and nonpolitical except for one thing: the Islamic republic already has a steward in the Mahdi's absence. The steward is the supreme leader.

"That raises the possibility that Ahmadinejad’s symbolic sidestepping of the supreme leader today could end in the political sidestepping of the supreme leader tomorrow. And, as Ahmadinejad begins his second term in an unprecedented riff with Khamenei, the possibility only seems to grow more likely.

"Ahmadinejad himself has said he considers his goal to be handing over power to the 'original leader' of the country's government. The allusion, again, is to the Mahdi's imminent return, an event which would make the constitution and the office of supreme leader superfluous.

"But it is not just Ahmadinejad, whom reformists accuse of stealing the June election, who bears watching. Other powerful figures, too, are sidestepping Khamenei -- suggesting broader forces than just Ahmadinejad are in play."

This is interesting in the context of speculation over whether Khamene'i was the prime mover in June's electoral coup, or whether he might have been carried along by Ahmadinejad's principlist faction, which is also influential in the IRGC and Basij militias. Another angle is that, if Khamene'i is seen as hoping to lay groundwork to be succeeded as Supreme Leader by his son Mojtaba, then other potential candidates, such as Ahmadinejad's spiritual leader Ayatollah Mesbah-Yazdi, have an interest in undermining him.

(Crossposted to American Footprints)



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