The street protests in Iran have faded in the face of the government's
security crackdown. But the political squabbles and bickering continue. Internal
feuds that were once kept behind closed doors have erupted into the open,
providing a rare glimpse of political tensions in the Islamic Republic.
Suzanne Maloney of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy told a recent congressional hearing that the level of squabbling among Iran's political heavyweights is unprecedented.
|Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei|
Mashaei is controversial in Iranian conservative political circles for
favorable comments he once made about the Israeli people. Mr. Ahmadinejad
subsequently gave in to the Supreme Leader's demand after conservatives called
on him to do so. But in an apparent show of defiance, he then appointed Mashaei
his chief of staff. Commentators have pointed out that Mashaei's daughter is
married to the president's son.
Then on Sunday, with his re-inauguration on the horizon, he fired his hardline intelligence minister and the culture minister resigned. No official reasons were given for the moves. But, according to the English-language Tehran Times, both men had strongly objected to the Mashaei vice-presidential appointment.
On Sunday, Mr. Ahmadinejad also appointed Ali Kordan as special inspector. Kordan resigned as interior minister last year after it emerged that his claim of an Oxford University law degree was false. Kordan's new job is to investigate fraud and corruption in government.
Analysts say the president is also facing internal pressure from reformists as well as conservatives. Middle East analyst Reva Bhalla of the private intelligence firm Stratfor says former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani - who is one of President Ahmadinejad's chief political rivals - is trying to limit the president's ability to politically maneuver in office.
|Iranian influential cleric and former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani delivers his sermon during Friday prayers at Tehran University in the Iranian capital, 17 Jul 2009|
Khamenei Revolutionary Guards' Leaders (file photo)
Iran analyst Karim Sadjapour of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
told a congressional hearing the president's and supreme leader's real worries
would be if cracks start appearing the Revolutionary Guard.
"What would truly be devastating for Khamenei and Ahmadinejad would be fissures among the regime's security forces, mainly the Revolutionary Guards. So far, we have not seen that, but the Revolutionary Guards are a very large entity, 120,000 men," he said. "And whereas the senior commanders are hand-picked by Khamenei and they are going to likely remain loyal to him, the rank-and-file, both empirically and anecdotally, we have seen, are much more representative of Iranian society at large," he added.
President Ahmadinejad is due to be sworn in for his new term August 5.
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