Power struggle in Iran between president and supreme leader

Analysts have been predicting this kind of open break for years. President Ahmadinejad is mostly Supreme Leader Khamenei's creation. He plucked the mayor of Tehran out of obscurity because he thought that his fanaticism would cleanse the government of corruption following the enormously crooked term of former president Rafsanjani.

What Khamenei never counted on was Ahmadinejad's independent streak:

The split started about two weeks ago after the president tried to dismiss the head of the intelligence ministry, the powerful government branch that exerts widespread control over domestic life. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader, ordered that the minister, Heydar Moslehi, keep the post.

Mr. Ahmadinejad then stayed home for 11 days, according to reports from Iran, engaging in a visible fit of pique that threatened to undermine the staunch alliance the two had forged since Mr. Ahmadinejad was first elected president in 2005.

The spat dragged into the open several factional fights, analysts said, particularly the efforts by Mr. Ahmadinejad's conservative opponents to prevent his faction from dominating the parliamentary elections next March and even the presidential vote in 2013.

Even before the chants at Friday Prayer, a signature event since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, important conservative factions had pronounced their support for the supreme leader, including the government's primary enforcers, the Revolutionary Guards. Ayatollah Khamenei's infallibility was the subject of Friday Prayer in at least half a dozen large cities besides Tehran, according to media reports. 

Ahmadinejad can't win and he knows it. Khamenei, a former president himself, has the whip hand and may try to marginalize the president even further if he continues to be as unpopular as he is currently. The economy is a basket case, corruption reigns despite numerous changes initiated by Ahmadinejad, and the president's wacky pronouncement have upset what passes for pragmatists in the Iranian leadership.

Like his predecessor President Khatami who was reduced to figurehead status at the end of his term, Ahmadinejad may be pushed to the sidelines and largely ignored until the elections in 2013.