The conviction is filtering through some Tehran circles that something must be done about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a way found to disqualify him as president, possibly on health grounds, before he brings disaster down on Iran.
Although no one is yet in a position to remove him, there is increasing anxiety about his emotional state, as a result of which he appears to be driving the country inexorably toward a military showdown with America.
Ahmadinejad and his Revolutionary Guards cronies insist the Americans would never dare attack Iran. But other voices warn they may be guilty of a dangerous miscalculation which could end up causing the demise of the Islamic regime in Tehran.
This week, the Iranian president outdid himself when he inveighed not only against America and the Zionists, but also critics of the national nuclear program at home. He called them traitors and threatened to expose them one day as “collaborators of the enemy.”
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Iran experts have no doubt that the disruptive president may be seriously disturbed, but he is also a cold schemer, who harbors an ambition to usurp supreme ruler Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. His systematic spadework includes mercilessly grinding his foremost rival, Khamenei’s senior adviser, the former president Hashemi Rafsanjani, to dust.
All these machinations have thrown the Iranian leadership into a storm of bitter controversy outside their experience.
Some US intelligence psychologists are diagnosing him from the way he behaves, carries himself and rants, as suffering from an obsessive-compulsive disorder combined with strong narcissistic tendencies.
Stumping for paramount rule
He seriously believes he is wiser and cleverer than anyone else, that he excels in every field and is a master of deception. He is, moreover, the greatest master of propaganda and psychological warfare. Ahmadinejad is fond of boasting that he is in direct communication with Allah and they constantly confer.
A year ago, he vowed that the Shiite messiah (Mahdi) had told him he would appear in two years. The president thereupon refurbished a luxury hotel in the northern Tehran district of Jamkaran for the coming and invited pilgrims to come and pay homage.
At the same time, in furtherance of his ambition to become the paramount ruler of Iran, he is constantly on the move, stumping for support around the country. His agents order large audiences to turn out to hear his flaming speeches. They are accompanied by grand promises of benefits for the local people, which he never honors after he moves on.
The Iranian president’s pet theme is the Islamic Republic’s divine right to acquire nuclear energy on which there can be no compromise. To endear himself to the public, he has recently begun passing out toys and gifts to children and teenagers. At one event, he handed out dolls, bikes and computers.
Ahmadinejad pictures himself riding a campaign trail on waves of grass-roots support which will lift him up when the time comes for his grab for the supreme ruler’s throne.
Yet he is crafty enough to avoid emulating the practice adopted by the great Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in the early days of his revolution of inviting a thousand citizens at a time to his residence to accept their allegiance. This would lay him open to allegations of disrespect and provoking Khamenei. Instead he gets out himself to the people for the personal touch.
Some western analysts dub Ahmadinejad the best friend the West and Israel have ever had, because his rhetoric and actions are so outrageous that they present the Islamic regime in Tehran in the most extremist and dangerous light.
Last Friday, Nov. 11, when he stood up to maintain the Americans were too weak to attack Iran, his enemy, Rafsanjani, declared in a sermon in Tehran: “Heavy clouds hang over our heads and we must therefore proceed with great caution and prudence.”
Two days later, the president accused him (without name) of baseless scare tactics against the population and undermining the regime’s inner strength.
Calling his critics “stupid goats” went too far
Rafsanjani is not the only important figure urging flexibility in Iran’s nuclear posture and its acceptance of compromise to escape another harsher round of UN Security Council sanctions.
This very recommendation cost Ali Larijani his job as chief nuclear negotiator.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Tehran sources report that the Chinese foreign minister Yang Jiechi who visited the Iranian capital this week said the clerical rulers must work with the IAEA or else Beijing would be forced to vote for the new sanctions.
A similar message was carried to Tehran earlier this month by Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov.
Ahmadinejad brazenly denied the two visiting foreign ministers gave Tehran this advice, maintaining that neither power is applying any sort of pressure on Iran. He was caught out in a lie – and not for the first time.
Apart from lies, his tongue runs away with him more and more of late. This week, he called his critics “stupid goats,” an extremely pejorative term in Iran. When they protested, his spokesman quoted the Prophet as using the term for people “who cannot grasp the greatness of Islam.”
This elicited an outcry from a chorus of “reformists” and even some conservatives. They condemned “the president’s uncivilized manner of speech.” Among the protesters was Mohammad Reza Khatami, brother of the former president and former secretary general of the Iranian Reform Party.
The journalist Mashallah Shams-al-Vaezin wrote that Ahmadinejad’s style of speech was better suited to thugs in the souk and accused him of trying to curry favor with the common people after the intellectuals and religious personalities had deserted him.
This week, the president boasted that, in his private conversations with Ayatollah Khamenei, both poked fun at the way the anti-nuclear propagandists went around hawking dark prophesies.
He found that no one believed he was respected enough by the supreme ruler for private conversation. If the president were summoned by Khamenei, they were sure it was for a thorough dressing-down for his reckless behavior.
While broad circles in the Iranian government have had it up to here with their loudmouth Iranian president, none are yet prepared to stand up to him and his Revolutionary Guards backers and force him to go.