Ahmadinejad Replaces Nuclear Technocrat with True Believer

Rick Moran
If it were possible for US-Iranian relations to get any worse, they just did.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has replaced long time nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani - a powerful, well connected conservative who is also Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran - with Saeed Jalili, an inexperienced deputy foreign minister for European and American Affairs.

The significance of this move cannot be overstated. Ed Lasky explains: 
As Iran's Supreme Leader Khamenei is reportedly very ill, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been angling to place his own supporters in key positions of power.

The Iranian Parliament has been cleansed to a great extent of those who may oppose his rule, labor unionists have been jailed, university professors sacked, businessmen forced to emigrate, moderate religious leaders (a relative term in Iran) have been isolated in small towns, media outlets that may be able to express opposition to Ahmadinejad have been shut down.

Now the next step in what may be a creeping coup has taken place: Iran's nuclear negotiator has been replaced by an inexperienced, unqualified person who appears to be a puppet of Ahmadinejad. The Iranians will clearly string along "negotiations" with the age-old excuse that the new appointee has to get "up to snuff". Considering that the new appointee has no experience at all that will be a lengthy, and futile, process.

This is what the world and the IAEA gets after years of negotiating with a tyrannical regime. A cynical maneuver-a chess move-that puts Iran several steps closer to a nuclear arsenal. International Atomic Energy Agency head Mohammed ElBaredei-who has prolonged this whole process while Ahmadinejad has gained power-is an enabler who has served the
interests of Iran.
While Larijani was allied with Ahmadinejad, he became disillusioned with his role last summer when the Iranian president undercut his authority on several occassions.

He also had an independent power base, having married in to the mullacracy with several relations serving in high positions in the government. In the end, he may not have been pliant enough for Ahmadinejad who now approaches the endgame of diplomacy with the United States with a negotiating novice who is as fanatical as Ahmadinejad in some ways.

This New York Times story doesn't say whether Larijani has resigned his position as Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council - a position that gives him direct access to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. If so, this would be very bad news for the US as his replacement will almost certainly be another true believer.

The replacement of Larijani continues a purge that Ahmadinejad began almost immediately upon taking office in 2005 as he replaced many top bureaucrats in the Foreign Office as well as other important ministeries with true believers in his brand of Islam as well as his anti-corruption agenda. The experienced technocrats they replaced may have been corrupt but they knew what they were doing. Their replacements turned out in many cases to be incompetent.

The Deputy Oil Minister, for example, is reported to have been a former butcher in Tehran and was a deputy labor minister when tapped for the oil ministry post.  Is it any wonder oil production in Iran has dropped significantly?

Supreme Leader Khamenei, sick and reportedly dying of cancer (as Ed points out above) may not be able to make the day to day decisions for the Iranian state he once did. If true, Ahmadinejad and his radical cronies may now be firmly in charge of the executive branch of government - a frightening possibility when you consider the vital importance of negotiations over the next few months. They will probably tell the difference between war and peace with Iran and the United States. And the fact that Ahmadinejad is pushing forward a novice negotiator doesn't bode well for peace.


If it were possible for US-Iranian relations to get any worse, they just did.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has replaced long time nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani - a powerful, well connected conservative who is also Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran - with Saeed Jalili, an inexperienced deputy foreign minister for European and American Affairs.

The significance of this move cannot be overstated. Ed Lasky explains: 
As Iran's Supreme Leader Khamenei is reportedly very ill, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been angling to place his own supporters in key positions of power.

The Iranian Parliament has been cleansed to a great extent of those who may oppose his rule, labor unionists have been jailed, university professors sacked, businessmen forced to emigrate, moderate religious leaders (a relative term in Iran) have been isolated in small towns, media outlets that may be able to express opposition to Ahmadinejad have been shut down.

Now the next step in what may be a creeping coup has taken place: Iran's nuclear negotiator has been replaced by an inexperienced, unqualified person who appears to be a puppet of Ahmadinejad. The Iranians will clearly string along "negotiations" with the age-old excuse that the new appointee has to get "up to snuff". Considering that the new appointee has no experience at all that will be a lengthy, and futile, process.

This is what the world and the IAEA gets after years of negotiating with a tyrannical regime. A cynical maneuver-a chess move-that puts Iran several steps closer to a nuclear arsenal. International Atomic Energy Agency head Mohammed ElBaredei-who has prolonged this whole process while Ahmadinejad has gained power-is an enabler who has served the
interests of Iran.
While Larijani was allied with Ahmadinejad, he became disillusioned with his role last summer when the Iranian president undercut his authority on several occassions.

He also had an independent power base, having married in to the mullacracy with several relations serving in high positions in the government. In the end, he may not have been pliant enough for Ahmadinejad who now approaches the endgame of diplomacy with the United States with a negotiating novice who is as fanatical as Ahmadinejad in some ways.

This New York Times story doesn't say whether Larijani has resigned his position as Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council - a position that gives him direct access to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. If so, this would be very bad news for the US as his replacement will almost certainly be another true believer.

The replacement of Larijani continues a purge that Ahmadinejad began almost immediately upon taking office in 2005 as he replaced many top bureaucrats in the Foreign Office as well as other important ministeries with true believers in his brand of Islam as well as his anti-corruption agenda. The experienced technocrats they replaced may have been corrupt but they knew what they were doing. Their replacements turned out in many cases to be incompetent.

The Deputy Oil Minister, for example, is reported to have been a former butcher in Tehran and was a deputy labor minister when tapped for the oil ministry post.  Is it any wonder oil production in Iran has dropped significantly?

Supreme Leader Khamenei, sick and reportedly dying of cancer (as Ed points out above) may not be able to make the day to day decisions for the Iranian state he once did. If true, Ahmadinejad and his radical cronies may now be firmly in charge of the executive branch of government - a frightening possibility when you consider the vital importance of negotiations over the next few months. They will probably tell the difference between war and peace with Iran and the United States. And the fact that Ahmadinejad is pushing forward a novice negotiator doesn't bode well for peace.