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.
Iran, politics, midtopia