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October 24, 2007
Ahmadinejad in trouble over Larijani Resignation
Ed Lasky sends along this article reporting that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is in hot water with his power base over the sudden resignation of nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani and his replacement by a crony from the foriegn ministry:
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad yesterday cut short a planned two-day visit to Armenia, officials there said, as the hard-line leader faced growing unhappiness at home over the resignation of Iran's top nuclear negotiator. That last statement is an earth shaker. Velayati is very close to Supreme Leader Khamenei and the fact that he is displeased may signal a crack of the whip by the aging Ayatollah.
The sudden replacement of negotiator Ali Larijani fueled already increasing complaints — even from conservatives who were once his supporters — that the fire-brand president was mismanaging Iran's most vital issues, particularly the confrontation with the West over the nuclear program.
Beyond the suddenness of Mr. Larijani's weekend departure, the choice for his replacement, Saeed Jalili, also came as a surprise. Mr. Jalili was a little-known deputy foreign minister, noted mainly for his loyalty to Mr. Ahmadinejad.
In a sign the displeasure may reach high levels in Iran's clerical establishment, a foreign policy adviser to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, complained about the surprise change, which occurred just ahead of key talks yesterday with the European Union.
"It was definitely better if this did not happen in the [current] important and sensitive situation when the nuclear issue is on the table," the adviser, former foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati, was quoted as saying by the semiofficial news agency ISNA.
It is believed that Khamenei wishes to avoid conflict with the west if it is at all possible. By naming his crony Jalili, Ahmadinejad is sending a signal that almost shouts "Bring it on!"
Mr. Jalili’s appointment may signal a clarification rather than a hardening of Iran’s policy. "Clarifying" indeed. The thought that Mr. Jalili has been sent to simply buy Iran time to complete its plans to build a bomb is pretty obvious. And perhaps, this is what has Ahmadinejad in hot water with the clerical leadership.
Mr. Larijani pleaded with the Europeans for understanding and room to maneuver, and he avoided the fiery bombast of Mr. Ahmadinejad, according to several European officials who dealt with him.
By contrast, they said, Mr. Jalili, as the Foreign Ministry official responsible for European and American affairs, did not pretend to try to negotiate, but tended to lecture with a sweet demeanor that belied his steely messages.
“He doesn’t listen or pretend to listen,” said one European official who has dealt with him. “It’s not a dialogue of the deaf. It’s a monologue of the deaf.”
Most of the ruling holy men may be fanatics but they aren't stupid. They know full well what our military is capable of doing and fear it greatly. If there is a way they can continue to enrich uranium and avoid war, they want to find it. Ahmadinejad has apparently given up on that notion. And this has not sat well with the leadership.
It would be too humiliating to withdraw Jalili's name at this point. But it wouldn't surprise me if they named an "assistant" who would be the real negotiator with the Europeans as both sides continue to manuever to avoid war.