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An Iranian Row

Samara Greenberg

The Iranian government is witnessing a rift like no other with tensions between President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei at an all time high.

Tensions erupted on April 17 when Ahmadinejad fired Intelligence Minister Heidar Moslehi, a conservative, from his position. Angered by the move, Khamenei quickly reinstated Moslehi, prompting the president to boycott his official duties for eight days. And while Ahmadinejad welcomed back Moslehi during Sunday’s cabinet meeting, reports confirm that the air between the president and supreme leader remains stiff.

According to an Al Jazeera report published Sunday, the dramatic feud “appears to be intensifying, with speculation that president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may be preparing to resign.” Indeed, the clash triggered a conservative backlash against the president that has showed no sign of letting up.

Iran’s supreme leader (L) and president during happier times.

Over the past week, religious conservatives issued frequent reminders of the president’s duty of obedience to the supreme leader. Parliament members have also collected 90 of the 175 signatures required for a petition demanding that the president come before parliament and explain his behavior.

In addition, last week, allies of Ahmadinejad, including chief of staff Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, who is believed to be the president’s choice for successor, were arrested for being “magicians” and invoking spirits.

What does all this mean? Aside from the fact that Ahmadinejad has seemingly fallen from Khamenei’s good graces, this Iranian row also reinforces what followers of Iranian politics and government already know – that the supreme leader in Iran has final say on all policy. While U.S. leaders and analysts tend to point fingers at Ahmadinejad for being a world menace, it’s important to remember that the Iranian presidency is supported by the supreme leader. Therefore, when it comes to issues such as Iran’s nuclear ambitions, there is reason to believe that not much will change regarding Iranian policy once Ahmadinejad’s second, and final, term in office concludes in 2013.