Sunday, April 24, 2011

Ahmadinejad Challenging Khamenei – Proclaiming New Normal

President Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Khamenei

By Nader Uskowi

The prevalent norm in otherwise rough-and-tumble politics of the Islamic Republic has always put the supreme leader above the political fray and factional politics. The executive and legislative branches, led by the president and the speaker of Majlis, were understood not to challenge the supreme authority of the leader and refrain from actions and policies that would run against the leader’s strong preferences, and the leader would in turn refrain from interfering in the business of running the government. In 1981, the first president of the Islamic Republic was impeached and forced into exile for creating a presidency independent of the supreme leader and the clerical establishment, breaking the rules of conduct at the senior levels of the regime. The old norms are being challenged again, this time by none other than Ahmadinejad who could stay in power for a second term only after the supreme leader openly sided with him during the post-election dispute.

Upon his re-election, Ahmadinejad chose his close confidant, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, to become his first vice president, a post equivalent to a prime minister. Khamenei openly objected to Mashaie’s selection and issued a rare edict, ordering Ahmadinejad to remove him from his post. Ahmadinejad did that only to name Mashaie as his chief of staff and practically giving him all the powers of the first vice presidency, openly challenging the supreme leader’s authority. The action followed by Ahmadinejad’s repeated challenges of the authority of the Majlis in approving government’s policies. The supreme leader openly requested and later ordered him to accept the constitutional prerogatives of the Majlis but to no avail.

Then came the matter of the minister of intelligence. Ahmadinejad fired him, and Khamenei reinstated him hours later. And things started getting uglier from there. Ahmadinejad’s presidential website carried the story of the minister’s resignation, but declined to publish Khamenei’s letter of reinstatement for more than two days. The official news agency IRNA, controlled by the government, likewise delayed publishing Khamenei’s letter only to publish it later after altering the content. The unprecedented action brought about fierce protest by the office of the supreme leader.

And on Saturday, Khamenei inflamed the already tense situation that exists between him and Ahmadinejad by declaring that he will intervene in government affairs anytime he feels the government’s decisions are against the interests of the Islamic Republic.

“I won't allow, as long as I'm alive, an iota of deviation of this massive movement of the nation," Khamenei said.

"In principle, I have no intention to intervene in government affairs unless I feel an expediency is being ignored as it was the case recently," Khamenei added, referring to the dismissal of the intelligence minister by Ahmadinejad. "With the help of God, I firmly stand by our right stance," he declared [IRIB, 23 April].

The established norms are being challenged by Ahmadinejad and less than a year from arguably the most important parliamentary elections in the Islamic Republic, three distinct political groupings are emerging from within the senior ranks of the regime.

- Khamenei and the clerical establishment, still the backbone of the Islamic Republic, with vast powers and control over the most critical institutions of the country.

- Ahmadinejad, Mashaie and company, challenging Khamenei’s undisputed authorities and powers, and those of the clerical establishment, and introducing a nationalistic and romantic narrative of Iran, a main source of dispute with the clerical establishment and their Islamic narrative of the country. The group also claims direct contact with the Hidden Imam without the help of the cleric intermediaries.

- Khatami, Mousavi, Karubi, Rafsanjani and company, targeting Ahmadinejad and his government, without challenging Khamenei, although the supreme leader sided with Ahmadinejad against them during the presidential election. The group will be vying for Majlis representation next year and eventually for executive powers but believes in keeping the supreme leadership of Khamenei and the powers of the clerical establishment intact.

Ironically the Green Movement who was born in support of Mousavi’s challenge to Ahmadinejad’s presidency, and other grass root movements expected to rise to compete in the upcoming parliamentary elections, will find themselves at a crossroad: either supporting Khatami, Mousavi and company, practically accepting the continuation of Khamenei’s supreme leadership and the powers of the clerical establishment, or side with Ahmadinejad, Mashaie and company in direct challenge to Khamenei and the clergy. After all, it is Ahmadinejad who is proclaiming a new normal, challenging the authority of the supreme leader and the clergy, and emphasizing a nationalistic narrative of the country, all agreeable to the youths and what is left of the Greens.

File Photo: Mehr News Agency


Anonymous said...

thats why i love our President Ahmadinejad because he is the only one with ball in country.

Anonymous said...

This dynamic is quite healthy for Iran's political spectrum. The branches of governance need a measure of give and take, particularly coming from the executive branch. (This was Ahmadinejad's predecessor's failing.)

But I would caution against reading too much into all of this. True, Ahmadinejad can be a bold politician. But beyond interpersonal shuffles, I don't expect any major policy shifts.

Anonymous said...

More headline spin for tabloid schmuks. There is really no news here. Disagreements happen all the time in Iran, it is a democracy after all. But of course, the media with their endless political games are trying to portray this as a "war" between leaders of the government. Obama cant even use the bathroom without approval from congress and the division in US politics is getting so ridiculous that you have Donald "I wear a Wig" Trump running around asking where Obama's birth certificate is.

Paul said...

More is coming Nader. Just wait. As I said in an earlier comment, this is a new bolder Ahamdinejad in his second term, much more rational and logical. For example the news you read about tensions
between Iran and the GCC countries - just try to discover the sources of tensions raised in Iran. They are not from the President; in fact they are from those who wish to torpedo Ahmadinejad's good neighborly overtures, and concrete policies.

The Green movement as a whole is now irrelevant. However in parts, we distinguish between secular Greens (who really should and will move over to Ahmadinejad), and the religious Greens (who by supporting Mousavi and Karoubi are voting for continuation of clerical rule whether they understand this or not).

The choice for Iranians everywhere, including yourself is clear. Do you want to see continuation of the clerical oligarchy? Or do you wish to see a new Iran, to arrive in a decade's time, and for which Ahmadinejad acted as a transitionary figure much like Turgut Özal of Turkey?

Anonymous said...

or !!!!

this is just a big political game, and we are getting to the final stages of it.

I don't think it is of that importance as Mr uskowi wants to reflect it to.

The same kind of challenges happen constantly everywhere and it is considered a democratic procedure.

Don't start to believe the BS that asylum seekers invent and present to get their papers straight.

trust yoour instinct and stop considering your Iranian compatriots to be so naive

Anonymous said...

Paul you're spot on, i have been saying this for ages, the "greens" should really support Ahmadinejad, someone who can actually get things done, unlike Khatami for example.

They are not going to get anything done (apart from steamroll the reform movement decades) by protesting with English written signs begging for freedoms that they cannot even specify (legalisation of night clubs? Alcohol?).

If they sat down and thought about what they really wanted, they'd see Ahmadinejad is the only way they could get it.

Mansur Arshama said...

Thank you, Nader, for the time-line of events, put in the historical context of this "republic". However the large camp of hardliners around Larijani, the Motalefe and other principlist factions does not appear in your list of political groupings, which blurs all further debates on this subject.
Although this camp is in no way better than Ahmadinejad and his cronies, it is most likely to gain upper hand in the forthcoming parliamentary elections, especially as it can count on Khamenei's support after backing him in the Moslehi affair.
As to the ongoing infighting, the interesting question is, if Ahmadinejad is strong enough to oppose the SL in the long-term (which I doubt), and how he will continue managing the affairs, crippled as he is.
Pretending him being an alternative to the clerical camp is an illusion, which regime followers delight to propagate these days.
The Moslehi affair is a heavy blow to both central institutions of the Islamic Republic, revealing its inherent contradictions more clearly, and I am convinced that this process of erosion will continue.

Nader Uskowi said...

Some of pro-Ahmadinejad sentiments expressed in the comments here seem to define Ahmadinejad as a secular politician, with some inviting the secular movement in the country to accept his leadership. It is hard to believe that a serious secular movement, and for that matter any logical person, should accept the leadership of a gentleman who believes that his government is a “Government in Waiting,” that is waiting for the Hidden Imam’s reappearance. An event that the government expects to happen very soon, probably before Ahmadinejad’s term in office is over in 2013. The government has proudly proclaimed in many occasions that the main work of this government is paving the way for the reappearance of the Hidden Imam. Don’t forget Ahmadinejad is the man who said while he was speaking at the UN General assembly, the delegates sitting in the hall were transfixed at him, and a halo surrounded his head, and he felt the presence of the Hidden Imam helping him with the speech.

Let me quickly point out here that I have nothing against anyone’s religious beliefs, or lack of, including Mr. Ahmadinejad’s. What I said above is not attacking him for his religious beliefs, but making a point that a man with such fundamentalist religious views can hardly sit at the helm of a secular movement in the country, as suggested by some of the commentators here.

Ahmadinejad’s appeal to the youths is not his adherence to secularism, but his readiness to challenge the authority of the supreme leader, and his appeal to the national sense of pride for ancient Persia and its accomplishments. Both these tendencies could be explained in term of political beliefs and calculations, and they do not necessarily connote secular beliefs. The differences with the clerical establishment can stem from a different interpretation of Islam as well.

Anonymous said...

No one is saying he is secular, but he is challenging the Supreme Leader, something that has not been done before and so we need to support this.

There is nothing else that Iranians can do.

Also, i am sure you know that Ahmadinejad has a habbit of having a show for his specific audience.

I don't believe what he said in those two instances were his real beliefs, but what the people listening to him would have enjoyed listening to.

Anonymous said...

Do the clerics in Iran really believe to be in contact with the hidden Imam? If yes, i really think they are crazy!

Paul said...


Who said Ahmadinejad is a secular person?

He's a Shi'ite Muslim, like 90% of the Iranian population. And he is a believer, like a good majority of that 90%. And that majority, as part of the Shi'ite doctrine, believes in the Hidden Imam. This means that all governments on Earth are governments in waiting. This means that all believers should do their utmost to pave the way for the reappearance of the Hidden Imam. You are pointing out tenants of the faith and wondering why Ahmadinejad is following them? You may not believe them, and you and I may have a wishful dream about the Iranian nation not being very religious, even after 30 years of destruction of Islam at the hands of the clerics, but the facts on the ground are different. When was your last long visit to Iran (not just Tehran, but the provinces?).

And Ahmadinejad has never said that he expects the reappearance of the Hidden Emam to be any time during his term or even soon. If he believed that, why would he enact subsidy removals, an act which will not bear fruit fully until another 10-15 years?

And the halo business - a tactical move, like some other, to fool the easily fooled clerics.

It's time for all, including to the Greens, to do a realistic appraisal of facts and make decisions based on those.

Nader Uskowi said...

Mansur Arshama,
I did not treat Larijani and company as an independent political group for the purpose of the upcoming parliamentary elections only because I believe their candidates and those of the cleric establishment would offer similar platforms. But that would not be the case with Ahmadinejad and company. I agree with you that a thorough analysis of the upcoming election needs to take into account all factions, local and national.

I do respect anyone's religious beliefs, including Ahmadinejad's. And I have said so in my comments. My argument was with comments here suggesting, and indeed inviting, secular Iranians to join Ahmadinejad because of his stance on the issues discussed in this post.

Unknown Unknowns said...

Previous to the Sayyad-2 SAM test launch, Iran was a soft target: US high-altitude aircraft could target radar defenses with impunity and destroy them, making way for lower-flying aircraft to destroy runways, fighter jets, military and industrial facilities, etc.

Anyone know if this event has changed anything? I imagine it HAS changed the equation with regard to the Israeli threat to the Bushehr nuclear reactor. But what about the dog being wagged by that tail? Comments?

Unknown Unknowns said...


A suggestion, in order to improve communication on your blog between posters and in order to foster some sense of community, remove "Anonymous" as a handle option.



Anonymous said...

Dear UU, we miss you at Hope to see you there.

Anonymous said...

And Ahmadinejad has never said that he expects the reappearance of the Hidden Emam to be any time during his term or even soon.

According to the Mayans the "End of Age" is on the 21 Dec 2012. Do not rubbish what the Mayan forecast, they have the most accurate calender system and prediction. BTW did you know NASA uses the Mayan Calender for accuracy!

Nader Uskowi said...


We are working on our comments policy and will take your suggestion very seriously. Thanks so much.

Anonymous said...

Nader, you can say what you want about A-jad, he has taken Iran farther in his years in office than any other president in the last several decades. Your dislike of his religious beliefs is really irrelevant. Besides, this is for the Iranian people to decide not that of some blogger in the US.

Anonymous said...

No president is more of a religious fanatic than George W. Bush was and the so called, "freedom loving, democratic" people of the US elected that maniac not "once" but "twice". Ahmadinejad is passionate about his faith but those beliefs don't translate into bombs over peoples head the same way it does in the US with the religious right and the Israeli lobby. Say what you want about his rhetoric but he hasn't attacked anyone. How many Americans have been affected by Ahmadinejad's belief in the Mahdi? However, George Bush's crusade all over the Muslim world has resulted in millions dead or injured and the party still goes on today.

Lets try to make more scholarly arguments than trying to simplify the man down to one or two statements. Lets not focus on rhetoric and focus on results.

Nader Uskowi said...

Anon 9:10 PM,

I do not dislike anyone's religious beliefs, including those of Mr. Ahmadinejad. Please note what I said in a comment above, copying here for your awareness:

"Let me quickly point out here that I have nothing against anyone’s religious beliefs, or lack of, including Mr. Ahmadinejad’s. What I said above is not attacking him for his religious beliefs, but making a point that a man with such fundamentalist religious views can hardly sit at the helm of a secular movement in the country, as suggested by some of the commentators here." 6:57 PM.

Anonymous said...

I didn't say you were "against" his beliefs but that you "dislike". You are obviously not a fan of those who believe in the Mahdi. Which by the way is inline with Catholics and Christians who believe in the return of the Messiah, which Muslims also believe that Jesus will arrive to save mankind. Please show me one statement where A-jad actually says that "the Mahdi will arrive during his term" like most headline bandits these are exaggerated and irresponsible claims.

Second of all, who said Iran wants a "secular" government? It says it right there on the passport, "Islamic Republic" what don't people understand about that? The Iranian people have spoken time and time again, they voted for A-jad, so get over it. Secular = hypocrite, how can you say you believe in the Islamic, Christian, or Judaic faith but not implement those beliefs in your society? For rational people in Iran this just doesnt make sense. Secularism has not solved any problems, if it was such a good system the US wouldn't be in the myriad of problems it is in today. The financial crisis, illegal wars, are all caused by immorality and a lack of reliance on the word of god as a guide for governance. Above all, the US and the West suffers from a moral deficit. Secularism, Capitalism, and all these nonsense systems created by businessman are aimed at self enrichment and have nothing to do with freedom, democracy, human rights, etc.. The truth will set you free and you could see it if you opened your eyes.

Anonymous said...

Thats democracy working in Iran

Anonymous said...

In any case Nader, why shouldn't Secular Iranians support Ahmadinejad?

Ahmadinejad's views are not so far away.

He wants more power for the Democratically elected President.

He says the Hijab should be encouraged through cultural means and not forced by the rule of law.

Nader Uskowi said...

Anon 8:11 PM,

Two points:

1. Secularism is at its core the separation of church and state. Secular politicians could in fact be religious, and many are, but by definition they accept the separation of church and state. It is unusual for any secular movement to accept the political leadership of someone who believes the power of the state emanates from a particular reading of a specific religion.

2. Seculars, much like non-seculars, have wide differences politically, from the left to the right of the spectrum. You can have a secular fascist to a secular socialist and all the shades in between. At the end of the day the people would judge a leader of someone running for leadership based on their politics.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for telling me what secularism means, but it looks like you do not understand its meaning.

When Paul was talking about the secular Iranians, he was talking about the Iranians who want more social freedoms, which Ahmadinejad can give them and would give them if he had the power.

Being one of those secularists who wants a Democratic and Secular Iran, i support Ahmadinejad 100%.

I hope that he will get the power to do what he wants. The more power he has, the less power the Clerical regime in Iran has.

Don't people realise how much Ahmadinejad has done for Iran? How much he goes against the clerics (who ironically the green Mousavi supporters agree with but are too blind to see).

If what you reported today is true and Ahmadinejad gets his way, this could be the begining of a second revolution.