Politics, Foreign Policy, Current Events and Occasional Outbursts Lacking Couth

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The Hollow Threat of Ahmadinejad

Via the New York Times , a very effective illustration of the limitations any Iranian Presidency:

A rift is emerging between President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Iran’s supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, suggesting that the president no longer enjoys the ayatollah’s full backing, as he did in the years after his election in 2005.In the past, when Mr. Ahmadinejad was attacked by his political opponents, criticisms were usually silenced by Ayatollah Khamenei, who has the final word on state matters and regularly endorsed the president in public speeches. But that public support has been conspicuously absent in recent months.

And some evidence that the hard line approach to Iran has served only to embolden the most conservative factions within Iran's government. Since the recent release of the NIE regarding Iran and it's apparent acquittal of nuclear weapons:

The intelligence estimate sharply reduced the threat of a military strike against Iran, allowing the Iranian authorities to focus on domestic issues, with important parliamentary elections looming in March.
“Now that Iran is not under the threat of a military attack, all contradictions within the establishment are surfacing,” said Saeed Leylaz, an economic and political analyst. “The biggest mistake that Americans have constantly made toward Iran was adopting radical approaches which provided the ground for radicals in the country to take control.”

While the pressure was on, Iranian leaders were reluctant to let any internal disagreements show. Senior officials, including Ayatollah Khamenei, constantly called for unity and warned that the enemy, a term commonly used to refer to the United States, could take advantage of such differences.

I've blabbered on before about how any US led strike on Iran would destroy any pro-Western element and unite an entire country under the nationalistic umbrella of the ruling Ayatollah. By reducing US rhetoric we allow the internal divisiveness to mature and take it's toll:

Recently, the supreme leader appointed a hard-line military leader, Mohammad Zolghadr, as deputy head of the armed forces for Basij, a volunteer militia force. Mr. Ahmadinejad had dismissed Mr. Zolghadr last month as deputy interior minister for security affairs. Mr. Ahmadinejad appeared angered last week by interference from Iran’s former chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, who visited Egypt in his capacity as the leader’s representative at the Supreme National Security Council. Mr. Ahmadinejad said Wednesday that his government had a Foreign Ministry that determined the country’s foreign policy, and a ministry spokesman said Mr. Larijani’s trip was personal.Mr. Larijani’s trip was important because Tehran cut ties with Egypt, a predominantly Sunni country, when Cairo signed a peace agreement with Israel in 1979 and provided asylum for the deposed shah of Iran.

Funny thing how we can sow instability in a regime by simply backing off a bit. Maybe Washington needs a history lesson on Iran and Shi'ism. And maybe the world needs a lesson on what divides rhetoric from ability. The conventional villain, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, seems to lack the actual claws and teeth imagined in his threats when one considers the reality of Iran's governmental machinery.


Unknown said...

I remember that when Khatami was president of Iran most people on the right argued that the office of the president had no power in Iran. Their outlook changed dramatically once Ahmedinejad came into power, and almost at once, the office of the President was the most important office in Iran.

That things are changing may signal that the ratcheting up to war has successfully been halted. However, the incident with the Iranian boats and our navy may increase it once again. It's probably an attempt by Ahmedinejad and his loyalists to ratchet up the American threat again, as a means of quelling the emerging divisions. Let's hope we don't fall for it again.

Jay@Soob said...

I agree and one is lent to remember the Gulf of Tonkin incident.

Anonymous said...

Agreed with both. Elements in Iran need war to survive. Lexington wrote a piece awhile back about how Ahmadinejad needed it to get reelected,but I can't find the link. The softkill is still the way to go.

Jay@Soob said...

"Elements in Iran need war to survive."

Heh. Funny, because Ayatollah Khomeini was loath to agree to peace with Iraq back in the early 80's despite the overwhelming strategic positives. The essence of his refusal was that it'd bring the war to a halt with Iran not exactly victorious.
It served to be an extension of the Revolution and it could be argued that some senior officials in Iran continue this doctrine of perpetual war to this day only the catalyst has shifted to that of political unity against a foreign "evil" in order to stave off the more pressing domestic issues which, as shown above, lead to an internal break down of the Islamic Revolution's cohesion.