Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Bye bye, Ahmadinejad


Some good (and somewhat counterintuitive) news out of Iran: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad appears to be losing the backing of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The reasons are twofold:

1. His populist economic policies aren't working. Inflation has jumped from 12 percent to 19 percent, with the cost of many basic necessities jumping sharply.

2. His confrontational rhetoric appears to have hurt him, too. The article says that the release of the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate -- which said Iran had suspended work on a nuclear bomb and essentially deep-sixed any plans to attack Iran -- relieved a lot of pressure on Iran and is allowing internal divisions to show, divisions that were kept under wraps by the unifying force of a possible war with us. But if Khamenei thought the rhetoric had been helpful, he would have rewarded Ahmadinejad for standing up to the Great Satan. His decision to weaken the president suggests that Khamenei thinks Ahmadinejad was part of the problem.

The article is also a reminder that, for all the attention neocons, Muslim bashers and others pay to Ahmadinejad, he has very little actual power. Iran is only a quasi-democracy, and it's a parliamentary form to boot. The presidency is mostly a ceremonial post; the real power lies with the Guardian Council, a group of clerics headed by Khamenei. They have their own huge faults -- notably being repressively conservative and antidemocratic -- but they're not anywhere near as fiery or confrontational as the president.

Of course, the Revolutionary Guards are a whole other kettle of fish, trying to provoke U.S. warships and implicated in supplying weaponry to militia groups in Iraq. They're a reminder that the Iranian government is not nearly as monolithic as we like to think. Iran saying the Gulf encounter was "routine" is portrayed as Iran putting forth a bald-faced lie. It might be; but it might also be a case of the central government either not knowing what really happened, or not wanting to admit that it doesn't have full control over the Guard.

Meanwhile, the International Atomic Energy Agency is seeing progress in its efforts to monitor and disclose the full extent of Iran's nuclear program, specifically the weapons program it hid from inspectors and then mothballed once it was discovered.

We'll see how things go, but it seems possible that we're on the verge of a broadly satisifying resolution in Iran: the sidelining of Ahmadinejad, effective oversight of their nuclear program and the marginalization of those here in the United States who were banging the drum for war. It's a win, win, win.

If it happens. This is the Middle East, after all. Stay tuned.

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3 Comments:

Anonymous caracarn said...

Good take on it, Sean. Ahmadinejad and Bush are two peas in a pod, and we'll be better off when they both leave office. Both are more interested in propaganda and pushing a dangerous agenda. Our Congress needs to issue a clear statement saying that Bush does not have the authority to launch aggression against Iran, but that probably won't happen while we're embroiled in politicking.

As for the recent naval confrontation, it's telling that the Pentagon would put the effort into making this such a big news release. They are not past aiding in the propaganda drive. While the Iranian boats most likely went beyond normal behavior, I see a bigger problem in our large military warship presence provoking "enemies" in that region and the general belief that we should police the world.

1/09/2008 10:05 AM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

Caracarn: I think Ahmadinejad is worse, rhetorically, than Bush, but since he has little actual power his rhetoric rarely translates into actual policy. And I think Bush's biggest problem is that he still listens to Cheney and the other dark harbingers of doom.

I don't blame the Navy for making its point, and not simply letting the Iranians define the issue. You can argue that our having warships in the Gulf is a provocation. But it's an international waterway, they need to be there anyway to support operations in Iraq, and two-thirds of the world's oil passes through the Straits of Hormuz. That traffic should not be at the mercy of the Revolutionary Guards or anyone else.

As you know, I prefer us being the world's policeman to the alternative. But that's something upon which reasonable people can disagree.

1/09/2008 10:19 AM  
Anonymous caracarn said...

"You can argue that our having warships in the Gulf is a provocation. But it's an international waterway, they need to be there anyway to support operations in Iraq, and two-thirds of the world's oil passes through the Straits of Hormuz. That traffic should not be at the mercy of the Revolutionary Guards or anyone else."

Considering that the Strait is an international waterway and so much oil passes through it, I find the notion of Iran trying to control the Strait or harass its travelers quite simply...ridiculous. Everyone knows that if Iran would try anything of the sort, it would result in bad things for them. It’s the same common sense that negates the fear-mongering of Cheney et al. Iran isn’t going to attack us or Israel because they would get wiped off the map.
Our own provocative behavior in that area serves only to increase tensions. But I’m afraid that’s exactly what the neoconservative regime wants.

1/09/2008 4:06 PM  

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