Skip to comments.DOMESTIC IRANIAN POWER STRUGGLE EXACERBATES NUCLEAR CRISIS
Posted on 04/18/2006 1:50:17 PM PDT by Dark Skies
A power struggle between Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his leading political antagonist Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani is complicating the conflict between Iran and the international community over the countrys nuclear program.
Both Ahmadinejad and Rafsanjani are trying to use the nuclear issue for their maximum domestic political benefit, helping to stoke international alarm over Tehrans intentions. Debate on the international response to Irans nuclear program has intensified since the April 11 announcement by Iran that it had successfully enriched a small amount of uranium. A day later, Irans deputy nuclear chief, Mohammad Saeedi, announced that the country would seek to significantly expand enrichment capabilities by the end of 2006. The ultimate goal, Saeedi added, would be to have 54,000 centrifuges operating to enrich uranium. At present Iran possesses 164 functioning centrifuges, according to Saeedi.
Representatives of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain convened in Moscow on April 18 to discuss the Iranian nuclear issue. A German representative also participated in the talks. Russia has led the effort to mediate a compromise between Iran and the international community that would keep the Iran nuclear issue out of the Security Council. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. The International Atomic Energy Agency is due to deliver a report on the Iranian nuclear issue by the end of April. Depending on the content of that report, the matter may be referred to the Security Council. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive].
Experts believe that the uranium enriched so far by Iran is not weapons grade, and instead can be used only for generating power. Iranian officials have long insisted that the countrys nuclear research would only be used for civilian purposes. The United States and European Union, however, suspect that Irans ultimate aim is to produce nuclear weapons. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive].
Ahmadinejad, the public face of Irans ultra-conservative faction, has left little doubt that hardliners want to possess nuclear weapons. In a bombastic speech in connection with Army Day ceremonies on April 18, Ahmadinejad claimed that the countrys military forces had "mastered the latest technology to respond to any aggression." He went on to vow that Iran would "cut off the hand of any aggressor and leave the enemy covered in shame."
Rafsanjani, perhaps the Islamic republics most skilled politician, has come to represent pragmatists, who are supportive of the nuclear program in order to meet Irans expected future energy needs, but who are believed to be flexible on the question of nuclear weapons. Many pragmatists might be willing to give up pursuit of a bomb in exchange for economic and other concessions from the international community, political observers in Tehran say.
Ahmadinejad and Rafsanjani have been locked in a contest for control of Irans political machinery in recent months. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. Concern within Irans political establishment has been growing that Ahmadinejads hard-line policies and pronouncements, including a threat to wipe Israel "off the map," are doing more harm than good to Irans national interests. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. In addition, many worry that Ahmadinejad lacks the experience to handle the nuclear crisis. Those disaffected by the presidents confrontational tactics have turned to Rafsanjani, whose backers now reportedly include Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive].
Embattled at home, Ahmadinejad sought to enhance his domestic political standing by staging an elaborate ceremony April 11 in connection with the announcement that the country had enriched uranium. His intention, Tehran analysts say, was to whip up patriotic feelings in the hope of garnering broader public support. In addition, Ahmadinejad has attempted to claim sole credit for the nuclear programs achievements, even though Irans atomic research efforts stretch back to the 1980s. Indeed, some Iranian political experts note, Rafsanjani played an important role in getting the program started.
Rafsanjani, meanwhile, sought to diminish any political advantage to be gained by Ahmadinejad. A few hours before Ahmadinejad made the announcement on uranium enrichment, Rafsanjani preemptively revealed that Iran was manufacturing atomic fuel in an interview with KUNA, a Kuwaiti news agency.
During the past week, Rafsanjani has been on a diplomatic tour of Middle Eastern states. The reported aim of the trip has been to enhance Iranian ties with its Islamic neighbors. But Rafsanjani also has tried to burnish his credentials as a capable crisis manager. In sharp contrast to the president, Rafsanjani has tended to be restrained in his comments concerning the possibility of an armed confrontation with states opposed to Irans nuclear program, especially the United States and Israel. While tending to downplay the possibility of such a confrontation, Rafsanjani at the same time has portrayed himself as a rational leader. "We are not seeking a confrontation but, if it is imposed on us, we are prepared for it," Rafsanjani said at a news conference in Kuwait.
As the April 11 uranium enrichment announcement showed, Ahmadinejad is availing himself of all the presidential prerogatives available to him in an effort to dominate the debate inside Iran on how to utilize the countrys nuclear capabilities. In trying to convey a contrasting message to the population, Rafsanjani does not have the same assets at his disposal that the president enjoys, especially access to state-controlled mass media. For example, an April 11 editorial in the pro-Ahmadinejad newspaper Kayhan assailed the Rafsanjani-led faction. Without naming names, the commentary complained that a "miniscule group of people" was damaging national security by attempting to strike a deal with the international community on Irans nuclear program. "They assert; an occasional retreat and peacemaking are models for rationality, as if we can retreat from our legitimate rights in the face of unjust and illegitimate pressure," the commentary said.
Editors Note: Kamal Nazer Yasin is a pseudonym for a freelance journalist specializing in Iranian affairs.
God works in mysterious ways. Let us hope that the travesties of the past in the free world's three-letter agencies, has past to the point where we can actually conduct covert operations again --- thank you Carter and Clinton (ugh!)
"Those disaffected by the presidents confrontational tactics have turned to Rafsanjani, whose backers now reportedly include Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei"
If Khamenei were truly becoming a backer of Rafsanjani rather than Ahmadinejad, they'd get rid of Ahmadinejad.
I just wet myself laughing.
I think you're correct but I think things are really complicated...with Mesbah Yazdi (Ahmadinejad's favorite Ayatollah) lobbying hard to replace Khamenei as Supreme Leader.
And remember that military plane crash last month(?) that had many Khamenei loyalist (senior IRGC officers) on board (and now dead).
My small brain aches trying to sort all this stuff out. I must be a masochist, because I thoroughly enjoy it.
Ahmadinejad (and Mesbah Yazdi for that matter) doesn't stand a chance if Rafsanjani and Khamenei want him (them) out of the picture.
Read the frikken tea leaves.
None of us knows...stop pretending and start reading the leaves.
At least, you'll be honest.
You have no idea...you have a hunch. Be honest about it...you'll feel better.
It's an educated opinion and it's also based on facts.
Ahmadinejad is a newcomer compared with Khamenei and Rafsanjani. The money and power is behind the elders.
As for Yazdi, he has a much smaller following, as his beliefs are out of the 'mainstream'.