Internal Strife at Highest Levels of Iranian Government

Many observers of Iranian politics have been writing off President Ahmadinejad's chances for re-election for months. The conservatives are riven by factions that can't agree on how to fix the economy and other matters of national import. Some of these observers have even gone as far and predicted a win for the "moderates" or "reformers."

Well Ahmadinejad is far from through. Using some of his allies in Parliament, Ahmadinejad has accused several of the highest ranking and most influential ayatollahs of corruption.

A close ally of President Ahmadinejad has accused 44 leading members of the Iran's old guard of corruption, among them several prominent ayatollahs.

The unprecedented accusations are seen as a daring challenge to Iran's ruling establishment by the intensely ambitious president as he strives to secure more power for himself and his office.

The incendiary "disclosures" were made by Abbas Palizar, a member of a parliamentary investigative committee into corruption. In a speech to students at Hamedan University in western Iran this month, he denounced the country's judiciary as the "centre of economic corruption", according to reports from Tehran.

Some Iranian newspapers have touched on the scandal without naming names but it is receiving far wider coverage on Iranian news websites. A video of Mr Palizar's speech, in which he identified allegedly corrupt officials and clerics, has been posted on the internet by Hamedan University students .

This has not been your garden variety pilfering going on here. This is massive corruption involving tens of millions of dollars in state assets like factories, mines, and hospitals.

This kind of corruption is actually no secret in Iran. The leaders live like Persian Princes while the rest of the populace struggles day to day. Ahmadinejad's most powerful rival, former President Ayatollah Rafsanjani, was named by Forbes Magazine as one of the richest men in the world back in the 1990's. It was said that a barrel of oil couldn't be exported from Iran back then without Rafsanjani getting his cut. It is widely believed that this kind of corruption associated with his name cost him the election in 2004 when he lost in a run off to Ahmadinejad - the man who promised to clean up the corruption.

This anti-corruption campaign apparently has the blessing of Supreme Leader Khamenei even though some of his associates are implicated. That's because he is deliberately fostering a divide in the conservative faction in Iran, playing one side off against another, in hopes of increasing his own power in the important Assembly of Experts. Rafsanjani, recently elected to the Assembly and slowly acquiring his own power base for a run at the Supreme Leader position once Khamenei dies, may not be Khamenei's first choice to succeed him. Hence, the willingness of Khamenei to have some of the dirt rub off on him.

This analysis of Ahmadinejad by Gary Sick is extremely telling:

Professor Gary Sick, an Iran expert at Columbia University in New York, said that commentators were mistakenly writing off Mr Ahmadinejad in next year's presidential elections. "He is a ferocious competitor, an edgy populist who wins the hearts of his lumpenproletariat countrymen even while he is demolishing the economy, and a supremely ambitious politician who is a threat to the entire post-revolutionary establishment," Prof Sick told The Times.


That presidential race is going to be very interesting.

Many observers of Iranian politics have been writing off President Ahmadinejad's chances for re-election for months. The conservatives are riven by factions that can't agree on how to fix the economy and other matters of national import. Some of these observers have even gone as far and predicted a win for the "moderates" or "reformers."

Well Ahmadinejad is far from through. Using some of his allies in Parliament, Ahmadinejad has accused several of the highest ranking and most influential ayatollahs of corruption.

A close ally of President Ahmadinejad has accused 44 leading members of the Iran's old guard of corruption, among them several prominent ayatollahs.

The unprecedented accusations are seen as a daring challenge to Iran's ruling establishment by the intensely ambitious president as he strives to secure more power for himself and his office.

The incendiary "disclosures" were made by Abbas Palizar, a member of a parliamentary investigative committee into corruption. In a speech to students at Hamedan University in western Iran this month, he denounced the country's judiciary as the "centre of economic corruption", according to reports from Tehran.

Some Iranian newspapers have touched on the scandal without naming names but it is receiving far wider coverage on Iranian news websites. A video of Mr Palizar's speech, in which he identified allegedly corrupt officials and clerics, has been posted on the internet by Hamedan University students .

This has not been your garden variety pilfering going on here. This is massive corruption involving tens of millions of dollars in state assets like factories, mines, and hospitals.

This kind of corruption is actually no secret in Iran. The leaders live like Persian Princes while the rest of the populace struggles day to day. Ahmadinejad's most powerful rival, former President Ayatollah Rafsanjani, was named by Forbes Magazine as one of the richest men in the world back in the 1990's. It was said that a barrel of oil couldn't be exported from Iran back then without Rafsanjani getting his cut. It is widely believed that this kind of corruption associated with his name cost him the election in 2004 when he lost in a run off to Ahmadinejad - the man who promised to clean up the corruption.

This anti-corruption campaign apparently has the blessing of Supreme Leader Khamenei even though some of his associates are implicated. That's because he is deliberately fostering a divide in the conservative faction in Iran, playing one side off against another, in hopes of increasing his own power in the important Assembly of Experts. Rafsanjani, recently elected to the Assembly and slowly acquiring his own power base for a run at the Supreme Leader position once Khamenei dies, may not be Khamenei's first choice to succeed him. Hence, the willingness of Khamenei to have some of the dirt rub off on him.

This analysis of Ahmadinejad by Gary Sick is extremely telling:

Professor Gary Sick, an Iran expert at Columbia University in New York, said that commentators were mistakenly writing off Mr Ahmadinejad in next year's presidential elections. "He is a ferocious competitor, an edgy populist who wins the hearts of his lumpenproletariat countrymen even while he is demolishing the economy, and a supremely ambitious politician who is a threat to the entire post-revolutionary establishment," Prof Sick told The Times.


That presidential race is going to be very interesting.