President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad‘s enemies at home are ganging up on him.
They are taking advantage of the accumulation of ill tidings piling up on the Islamic Republic: uncertainty over the threat of an American military strike to destroy Iran’s nuclear installations, a mid-February UN Security Council meeting to impose broader sanctions and, most worrying, supreme ruler Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei is extremely ill and incapable of maintaining his grip on state affairs.
A formidable coalition is pulling strings behind the scenes for Ahmadinejad’s ouster It is spearheaded by two former presidents Hojjat-ol Eslams Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami,and the former parliament (Majlis) president Hemahdi Karroubi, who has established a new party called E’temad-e Melli (National Trust).
In public too, Ahmadinejad’s critics are increasingly vocal, although no one dares to come right out and demand his resignation.
After a secret conclave of the two ex-presidents in the second week of January – Ahmadinejad’s spies leaked word of their meeting – Karroubi convened the heads of his party and assured them: “We did not achieve the revolution for nothing and we will not let it cave in for nothing.” He added; “I’m not saying we are at a dangerous stage or a crisis, but there are many causes for concern.”
At a public Majlis session Tuesday, Jan. 23, security and foreign affairs committee member Ali-Akbar Alami said bluntly: “Ahmadinejad is an adventurer who could lead Iran to catastrophe and bring down the regime.”
Hossein Marashi, member of a faction backed by Rafsanjani, accused the president of telling lies about Iran’s nuclear capability: “Our president’s boasts of our nuclear technological and scientific capabilities do not reflect our real achievements.” He added: “It is true that we have some impressive successes, but we are a long way from the ability to provide fuel for the Bushehr reactor.”
Marashi bitterly assailed Ahmadinejad for promising nuclear technology to the Sudanese government, at a time when that country is at the crux of a major crisis, pursues radical policies and is in confrontation with many African nations. He also slammed the president for promising nuclear technology to the pro-Islam government of Turkey.
Public confidence in the regime is ebbing
Even the Jomhouri-e Eslami newspaper, which normally reflects the views of the supreme ruler Khamenei, voiced concern about the state of affairs in the country: “Those who care must learn from those who have experience,” the paper editorialized – an assertion taken as a hint to the incumbent president to take lessons from his two predecessors.
Before Ahmadinejad became president, those two were able to pull the wool over the eyes of the world, while keeping the quest for nuclear technology in top drive; then, Iran got away scot-free of UN Security Council condemnations and international sanctions.
In another facet of Iran’s national crisis, Khamenei’s health is said to be worsening. Ordinary Iranians are asking why he is silent on fateful issues and why he is not there to navigate Iran’s nuclear policy in what are seen as new and dangerous waters.
If he objects to Ahmadinjad’s extreme views, why does he not say so – or at least tell him to shut up. Is he incapacitated by illness (cancer of the digestive tract which has spread to the prostate) and strong medication? Or maybe the Revolutionary Guards have placed him under siege, taking advantage of his illness to seize power and introduce their policies.
It is worth remembering, DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s Iran experts say, that the national nuclear program and missile projects are in the sole charge of the Revolutionary Guards. Defense minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar this week obeyed RGs request to sign new contracts with his Belarus counterpart Leonid Malsef to obtain from Minsk new technology for the manufacture of ballistic missiles.
Ahmadinejad is fighting his critics by deliberately radicalizing his posture on the nuclear issue. On his orders, 38 inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency were barred from Iran on Tuesday. This was Tehran’s payback for UN sanctions, but also an act of provocation for his enemies. Iran’s commitment to the Non-Proliferation Treaty was not automatically severed; another 162 IAEA inspectors have permits to operate in Iran. Tehran threatened in the past to withdraw from the IAEA if the UN imposed sanctions, but has hesitated to go all the way, fearing its exit would be interpreted as an act of war on the world body and give the United States moral justification for a military strike.