There are growing indications that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is facing his second epic struggle to stay in power since the 2009 popular riots against his election – with his back to the wall. Even the secretive revolutionary Islamic Republic of Iran has been unable to conceal the widening fissures in Iran's ruling elite.
debkafile's exclusive Iranian sources report that the president's situation must be dire indeed because Monday night, Jan. 3 he called off at the last minute a secret trip to Beirut by his chef de bureau and kinsman Rahim Esfandiar Mashaee for winding up a key power move in Lebanon. The need to keep his trusted confidant at his side was apparently more pressing than a key step in Iran's takeover of Lebanon. A day earlier, Ahmadinejad sacked his 14 top advisers, breaking up the inner cabinet which virtually ran the country under his control.
Mashaee was to have persuaded Lebanese President Michel Suleiman to have announced the dissolution of the UN tribunal set up to probe the Rafiq Hariri assassination and try its perpetrators. He would have had to override Saad Hariri's government and cut through the Saudi-Syrian formula for solving the Lebanese crisis to pre-empt the tribunal presentation of indictments against Hizballah officials. This stratagem would have satisfied and empowered Iran's proxy as the dominant power in Beirut. This mission was important enough for Ahmadinejad order Mashaee to remain in Beirut until it was accomplished.
But meanwhile, the president had dumped a body of advisers who had formed a super-government acting out his practical authority for countermanding the decisions of the government, parliament and other constituted institutions.
According to one source, the advisers he fired are: Mehdi Kalhor, media, Mojtaba Rahmandoust, Isargaran (martyrs and devotees) affairs, Davoud Danesh Jafari, senior economics adviser, Tavakkoli Bina, commerce, Etemadian, commerce, Vaziri Hamaneh, oil and gas industry, Sousan Keshavarz, education, Sattar Vafai, Haj Ali Akbari, youths affairs, Mehdi Chamran, councils affairs, Rouyanian, Ali Montazeri, Ali-Asghar Zarei, culture advisor, and Mehdi Mostafavi.
Our Washington sources report that the White House is keenly watching the infighting and deepening splits in the clerical regime. Opinions vary as to the cause which triggered the crisis, ranging from opposition to the deep slashes Ahmadinejad ordered last month in subsidies for essential consumer goods, to dialectical differences and a straight power struggle. But they all agree that the Iranian president is fighting for his life in a struggle that is approaching a resolution.
Washington sees three major forces ranged solidly against him for the first time:
1. The Iranian parliament, the Majlis, and its powerful speaker Ali Larijani, who has been working to check Ahmadinejad's limitless thirst for power for some time;
2. The generals: Never before since the 1979 Islamic Revolution have the armed forces chiefs taken a hand in Iranian politics. But they are now deeply concerned that Ahmadinejad's policies, including his push for a nuclear weapon, are bringing the country into perils it cannot withstand.
3. Long-time rival, the former president Hashem Rafsanjani, Chairman of the Expediency Discernment Council of Iran, the supreme body overseeing the various arms of the regime, is showing signs of recovering from the years of persecution and restrictions placed on the activities of his faction.
It was noticed in Washington this week that supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who habitually praises the president and his works, has stopped mentioning him in his public appearances, probably watching and waiting to see how the internal discord turns out. Also sitting on the fence are the heads of the Revolutionary Guards Corps, Ahmadinejad's principle buttress until now. He appears therefore to be fighting for survival singlehanded except for a hard core of the most radical ayatollahs who have backed him through thick and thin.