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Tuesday, May 24, 2011     FOR YOUR EYES ONLY

Iran power struggle: Ahmadinejad vs Khamenei vs the will of the people

By Fariborz Saremi

The balance of power in Iranís ruling hierarchy seems to be shifting rapidly away from President Ahmadinejad, who is only too aware that the high command of the Islamic Republic Guard Corps is still, and likely to remain, loyal to Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, Iranís spiritual leader.

  • Related Story: Ahmadinejad in trouble at home as Iran's regime rethinks its strategy ó May 25

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    Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei waves as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (white shirt) looks on during a ceremony to mark the anniversary of the death of Fatima, daughter of Prophet Mohammed.     AFP
    President Ahmadinejad would appear to have lost the backing of Ayatollah Khamenei, his erstwhile patron, having helped to ensure that Ahmadinejad was re-elected in 2009. In fact the setbacks that the president has suffered in the leadership power struggle with the countryís supreme leader threaten his ability to last out his second term.

    Recently the most senior and conservative clerics have indeed become more bold in their attacks on the president and his strongest allies, his chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei and ex-executive deputy, Hamid Baghaei. They have directly criticized Ahmadinejadís and Mashaiís attempts to mobilize Iranians strong sense of nationalism by exploiting historical and religious symbols. For example, the clerics and the IRGC took umbrage at the president for publicly celebrating the Persian New Year in March.

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    Moreover Ahmadinejad and Mashai have come under increasing and fierce personal attacks for their perceived corruption. They have even been accused of betraying the spirit of the revolution, and worse still of working on behalf the USA. Their cause has been much weakened by the arrest of close supporters of Mashai.

    The presidentís authority is waning on a broad front. On the one hand, some of his most prominent supporters in the 2009 election have turned away from him including, for example, his spiritual mentor, Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi. Others, on the other hand, have openly attacked him incluidng Ayatollah Ahmad Jenati, a close ally of the leader and head of the Guardian Council.

    Ahmadinejad now finds it difficult to assert his political will. He was forced by the Supreme Leader in the presence of the parliamentary chief, Ali Larijani, to abandon his efforts to streamline his government.

    Similarly, Ayatollah Khamenei ordered Ahmadinehad to reinstate Intelligence Minister Haidar Moslehi in April, after dismissing from his post shortly before.

    On the popular front the president has opened himself up to widespread resentment by removing long-standing and expensive subsidies on food, fuel, and other essentials in an attempt to counteract deficits caused by the global economic situation and more especially by international sanctions. According to some analysts even the threat of revolts or a popular uprising are acute as a result.

    With respect to the further course of this dispute between President Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Khamenei, it would seem that Khamenei has the upper hand.

    While the President is relying on having the position of Supreme Leader removed from the Republicís Constitution once Ayatollah Khamenei is dead, Khamenei and his allies within the leadership of the IRGC have been undermining his position by having his inner circle arrested, just as they did with many of the associates of Mousavi,Karoubi,Khatami or Rafsanjani.

    It must be remembered, however, that the body of IRGC and the lower ranks are nationalistic and might in the near future stand up against both wings to free the people from tyranny.

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