Autumn for the Ayatollah
09.15.2008 07:33 | DISPATCHES
Is Supreme Leader Khameini sabotaging his regime by throwing his support behind Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the upcoming presidential election?
In "Ahmadinejad gets a crucial boost" on Asia Times Online, Golnaz Esfandiari writes that "On August 24, Khamenei, who has the last word on all matters related to the Islamic republic, was quoted as saying that President Mahmud Ahmadinejad should plan on remaining in power for a second term."
Ahmadinejad, a loose cannon, has been known to set Khameini's teeth on edge. "The problem Ahmadinejad's government is facing … is that gradually, significant numbers of hard-liners have turned into Ahmadinejad's critics because of his economic policies and his performance on the international scene, which has put Iran under the shadow of sanctions, isolation and even military attack," [Tehran analyst Sadegh] Zibakalam says."
Also, this past January, wrote Nazila Fathi in the New York Times, Khameini, "in what appeared to be his first public dispute with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, sided with Parliament … in a conflict over energy policy. [He] intervened after Mr. Ahmadinejad had refused to carry out a measure that required his government to supply gas to remote villages during this year's exceptionally cold winter."
But Esfandiari writes that Khameini reportedly told Ahmadinejad "to work in his last year as if it were his first year" and "that the president should plan for another term: 'In other words, imagine that in addition to this year, another four years will be under your management. Work with this in mind; act and plan accordingly.'"
Ahmadinejad called the comments a "medal of honor" from the man he alternately seems to flaunt and whose approval he courts.
Why does Khameini seem to have finally given Ahamadinejad his imprimatur? After his phrase above about "the problem Ahmadinejad's government is facing," Esfandiari writes, "and to a certain degree, Khamenei." In other words, the ruling mullahs already suffer from low approval ratings.
In 2007 a poll taken by Ken Ballen's Terror Free Tomorrow showed that "61% of Iranians were willing to tell our pollsters over the phone that they oppose the current Iranian system of government, where the Supreme Leader rules according to religious principles and cannot be chosen or replaced by direct vote of the people."
There's no imminent threat of a new revolution against the old (Islamic) revolution, unless you count the US-supported terrorist organization MEK, which is more of a nuisance than a threat. But supporting an unpopular president can only increase the strains between Khomeini and the Iranian people.
Esfandiari explains. "Despite such problems, Khamenei praised Ahmadinejad for his handling of the nuclear issue, saying that the president and government had stood up to the 'excessive demands' of 'bullying and brazen countries'."
Fathers always seem to love their most willful sons the most.