Mysterious murmurings from Tehran
Something very interesting is happening in Iran. The trouble is, from where I sit, it’s not easy to work out what it is.
Here’s how the Associated Press reported it:
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad threatened Wednesday his government would expose details of conversations between a former Iranian nuclear negotiator whom the president had labeled a spy, and foreigners he was accused of colluding with.
But an increasing number of conservatives stepped forward to defend negotiator Hossein Mousavian, in a sign the issue was further eroding hardline Ahmadinejad's support.
The president's threat was in response to Mousavian's acquittal Tuesday in a case that has become a centerpiece in the feud between hard-line Ahmadinejad and his more liberal political rivals.
Mousavian is regarded as being close to former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, who’s now once again emerging as an increasingly powerful figure. But even more important, given where the real power lies, are the signals that the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamanei, seems to be backing Mousavian against President Ahmadinejad.
AP quotes the semi-official Mehr news agency as reporting comments by Ali Akbar Nateq Nouri, a top adviser to Khamanei, to the effect that the espionage charges against Mousavian were "not true" — a clear slap, says AP, to Ahmadinejad.
Here’s the context: it’s not the first time there have been signs of tension between the Supreme Leader and the President. There’s widespread dissatisfaction with Ahmadinejad’s handling of the economy, and there are many within the ruling elite who think he has been needlessly provoking the West by his comments on Israel and his dealing with the UN over Iran’s nuclear programme.
A lot depends on how this is all resolved. If Ahmadinejad reasserts his authority and sees off his opponents, he’s likely to press on with the uranium enrichment programme and there’ll be growing pressure from Washington. On the other hand, if Rafsanjani continues to increase his power base, there may be an opportunity for a new opening in negotiations.
Watch this space … and let me know if you have more information than I do.
UPDATE: more interesting stuff on this here.