By Nader Uskowi
Ahmadinejad’s claim that most people believe the US government was behind the 9/11 attacks was deeply hateful. And as shameful was his choice of venue, so near the Ground Zero. At its face, such behavior might be seen as irrational or even insane. But Ahmadinejad knew what he was doing, trying to provoke the US and the West to take further actions against his country, even military actions against its nuclear facilities. He seems welcoming the deepening of the crisis in Iran’s relations with the West, not so much as a rational foreign policy for the country, but as a calculated political move to take the upper hands in the growing infightings within the regime. Ahmadinejad is after taking control of the Islamic Republic, and any comments, no matter how hateful or provocative they might be, are not off limit for him.
Ahmadinejad’s drive for control does not start or end with foreign policy, although a state of conflict with the West, at least until he succeeds in controlling the Islamic Republic, is helpful to consolidate his powers. His main targets, however, are the traditional conservatives and the country’s clergy. He, his chief of staff Mashaie, and the people around them, have no use for the clergy. They claim they are in direct communication with Mahdi, the Hidden Imam, which leaves no needs for middlemen. They are discounting the “Islamic identity” of the Islamic Republic, opting to highlight the “Iranian identity” of their version of Islam. On the surface, they offer a more modern alternative to the backwardness that defines the clerical rule. Albeit ”modernity” built on armed forces, i.e. the IRGC, state of perpetual conflict with the West, and suppression of the opposition, including some of the most loyal defenders of the Islamic revolution. An atomic bomb is also helpful. A model not far apart from that of the early Baathists.
Ahmadinejad controls the government and its vast resources and is grooming his possible successor. But he is not the only game in town. The supreme leader also controls enormous amounts of money, with no need to report the budget of his "house" to the Majlis or anyone else, with free hands to disperse its wealth to consolidate his already vast powers. The traditional conservatives under Khamenei’s leadership and the radical right under Ahmadinejad will vie more intensely than ever to control the future of Iran. Other factions and the opposition would also play important roles in shaping of that future amid growing conflicts within the regime and with the outside world. Ahmadinejad's "performance" in New York is really meant for the home audience.