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It's difficult to know just how much one should read into reports of internecine squabbles among Iran's ruling class. Journalists often try to paint Iran as a multifactional government when usually the signs of dissent are little more than show, a way for the mullahs to beguile Westerners into thinking that reform from within is possible with just a little more engagement. However, if this report has any truth to it, it may indeed be a sign that the mullahs now realize they made a mistake when they hand-picked the current president:
Internal pressure on President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran to abandon his confrontational policies with the West has intensified after Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country's supreme spiritual leader, snubbed a request for a meeting on the country's controversial nuclear programme.
Iran's president meets regularly with Ayatollah Khamenei, who is regarded as the guardian of the Islamic Revolution, to brief him on international and domestic political issues. But when the president requested a meeting earlier this month, the ayatollah declined.
It is the first time that he has refused to meet Mr Ahmadinejad since the former Revolutionary Guard commander was elected president in 2005 and is a further indication of the growing unrest within Iran at his hard-line policies.
"It is a clear indication that the cracks are starting to appear in the highest echelons of the Iranian regime," said a senior Bush administration official with responsibility for monitoring Iran. "If the country's leading religious figure is not talking to the political leadership then obviously something is going seriously wrong."
Perhaps. It seems that Mahmoud and his relationships with his bestest buddies generates more gossip than Brangelina, some weeks. Let's not forget that the mullahs selected Ahmadinejad and made sure the election made him the winner, and they wanted him over the more cosmopolitan Mohammed Khatami. They knew exactly what they would get from Ahmadinejad, and he has delivered it in spades.
However, even if this is a put-on, it still could indicate some insecurity on the part of Iran's real power brokers. They may have decided that the Bush administration would cave on its tough stance, or that the other Western nations would force him to moderate his position. The Iraq Study Group report may also have given them hope that the US would come hat in hand to Teheran, ready to cut a deal that would allow them much greater hegemony in the Middle East and with better opportunity to pressure its bete noir, Israel.
Bush hasn't blinked -- and the Iranians are slowly realizing that he won't. Having parked two carrier groups off their shores and in position to take action in the Straits of Hormuz, the mullahs are running out of options for threatening gestures, especially since Saudi Arabia announced a spare oil production capacity that exceeds Iran's total exports. They can look around their borders and see the US in almost every single adjacent nation.
That's power, and the Iranians recognize it, even if most Americans do not. Bush has slowly and quietly surrounded the Iranians and threaten every line of communication they have. The US has led the march towards expanding the sanctions we have had on Iran for a generation to most of the West, and even Iranian oil hasn't been able to reverse the momentum.
Given all of that, Khameini may well have snubbed Ahmadinejad. Surely they expected the former mayor of Teheran to do a more dextrous job of antagonizing us while splitting the Western alliance.Sphere It View blog reactions
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