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Iran: While the President's Away.....The Contest Inside Tehran's Establishment

IRAN FLAG TORNI could be overreading the situation, but I sense nervousness and confusion within the Iranian establishment. That emerged yesterday in the conflicting stories over the objections of key members of Parliament, and specifically Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani, to the rule of President Ahmadinejad. Of course, there have been differences between Parliament and Ahmadinejad on the economic issues before the election, let alone after the inauguration. The anger over the economic proposals, especially the way they have been pursued by Ahmadinejad, is rising, with the injection of the accusations not only of mismanagement but of dubious practices and possibly corruption.

The Latest from Iran (24 November): A Larijani-Rafsanjani Alliance?

The reason for that appears to be a political contest behind the economic foreground. Look carefully at the conflicting stories in the same publication, Khabar, yesterday, and here is what emerges. While some members of Parliament are eager to rally round Ahmadinejad and claim that the dispute is being whipped up by outside forces, Larijani's criticism moves from the battle over subsidies and taxes to the manner in which Ahmadinejad is wielding authority. Dictator" is a pretty strong word, even if the President is not directly named, and Larijani's defense of Hashemi Rafsanjani against the attacks, fed if not led by Ahmadinejad allies, is just as telling.

The catalyst for this may be the collapse of the National Unity Plan. Consider that the Plan, in which Larijani and Rafsanjani both had a hand, would have curbed Ahmadinejad's authority and given both his adversaries roles in the revision of the Iranian system. And consider the drama of this weekend's statement by pro-Government MP Ali Zakani behind the "election may be rigged" headline: the declaration that the intent of the Unity Plan was a Larijani Presidency. Indeed, it may be that Zakani's intention was not to bring the election into question but to claim, albeit in garbled form, that Larijani and Mousavi had put forth the false image of a close election to try and pull out a coup against Ahmadinejad.

No surprise, then, that Larijani has spoken out. No surprise that Hashemi Rafsanjani's office has claimed that Zakani, in his speech, made up the quotes from the former President.

Remember, all of this is happening while the leadership of the Green movement is in a quiet phase. And, while the university demonstrations continue day after day, the intrigues are occurring behind closed doors as well as in speeches beyond the campuses. All of this has developed while Rafsanjani has been on the defensive and quieted, although there are signs that he may now be emerging for a fightback.

Meanwhile, the Revoutionary Guard makes its own moves with military exercises and loud announcements. And the fight over how to handle the "enemy" leads to more arrests and the muddled compromise of prison sentences for the biggest reformist names while letting them free on bail during appeals.

Some EA readers and other observers use the word "implosion" in their projections of the near-future. I don't, preferring "re-alignment". But it is a contested re-alignment, and political swords may soon be drawn.

Reader Comments (5)

This layout much better! Thank you!

November 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterWhizzbizz

Thanks for the analysis. A question: Where is the Supreme Leader in all of this intrigue?

November 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterObserver


SL is MIA (missing in action) and has been for a while. Maziar Bahari in his Newsweek article states that IRGC is the new sheriff in town. EA provided a link to Maziar article.

IRI is a runaway train and will crash sooner or later.

November 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMegan

In my opinion, Rafsanjani has no choice other than lining up with oposition. He has lost all of his power by trying to deal with the regime and if he continues that he will become totally powerless. But if he resurface (which apparently he is) and start talking against regime, he will have a lot of power and can be very effective in Iran's politics again. It is a do or die situation for him.

November 24, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterkamran

The situation is most complicated and no one knows what is going on behind closed doors of some of the main factions. I believe there are some within the upper most strata of power and control who want to change thin gs a bit. People, however, see through all of this, and by the way the movement does not really have one "leader." This is so far a spontaneously growing and moving new born complex. We hope it will take Iran to a democratic and free state. Those who brave the violence and the beatings and the rapes and the prisons all are united on this one goal. No one is leading them, this may be good or bad, I don't know.

November 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHossein

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