September 29, 2010

FAILING PRESIDENTS ALWAYS LOOK TO FOREIGN AFFAIRS:

Ahmadinejad Returns to Chaos (Reza Aslan, 9/29/10, Daily Beast)

Don’t let the bluster and confidence fool you: Ahmadinejad is returning to a country in political turmoil, an economy on the verge of utter collapse, and a government in total deadlock. The coalition of military, clerical, and political conservatives that had rallied to him in opposition to the Green Movement has completely fallen apart. Now that they no longer have to contend with an unarmed group of college kids demanding their basic rights, Ahmadinejad’s erstwhile allies have begun focusing all their anger upon him.

In the last few weeks, a number of high-profile members of Iran’s parliament—many of them Ahmadinejad’s former supporters—have openly threatened him with impeachment. The president’s relationship with the parliament has always been strained (there are some half-dozen laws passed by the parliament in the last year that Ahmadinejad has either refused to sign or just plain ignored). But lately the antagonism between the two branches of government has boiled over into open attacks in the press.

Ahmad Tavakoli, one of the most hard-line conservative MPs in the parliament, recently wrote a scathing letter to the president outlining three major violations to Iran’s constitution made by his administration—all of them grounds for “censure” and “impeachment” (Tavakoli actually used those words). According to a published version of the letter, Tavakoli says of the main issues he takes umbrage with is Ahmadinejad’s open disregard for Iran’s supreme leader.

Now that Ahmadinejad’s allies no longer have to contend with an unarmed group of college kids demanding their basic rights, they have begun focusing their anger on him.

Tavakoli is referring to a controversial remark made by Ahmadinejad that the executive branch is the most important branch of government in Iran. On the one hand, the remark was just the latest example of Ahmadinejad’s attempts to grab the reins of power in Iran. Yet his comment was widely interpreted as a direct and public rebuke of the country’s revered founding father, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who famously said that the parliament must be the most important branch of the government.

Ahmadinejad’s ties with Ayatollah Khomeini had already been pretty much permanently severed when not one member of Khomeini’s family attended his swearing-in ceremony last year. But after his remarks contradicting the “infallible” father of the nation, a large number of MPs came out strongly against the president, with one conservative member, Ali Mottahari, ominously declaring that the parliament would be “stepping up” its examination of Ahmadinejad’s government. Another MP, Daryoush Qanbari, quipped that the president may not be “fully informed” about how the law in Iran works. But the best retort against Ahmadinejad came from Iran’s fiercely conservative speaker of parliament, Ali Larijani, who reminded the president that the purpose of the parliament was to keep the country from turning into a dictatorship, a not-so-veiled accusation that the president may be confusing himself with the shah. “If Imam Khomeini said [Parliament] has full authority, it was to prevent the reemergence of dictatorship in Iran,” Larijani said.

At the same time, Ahmadinejad is in serious trouble with the country’s clerical elite.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at September 29, 2010 6:34 AM
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