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Iran Analysis: "The Supreme Leader Has Tied His Fate to That of Ahmadinejad" (Siavashi)

Readers are offering valuable comments and corrections to our Wednesday analysis, "Ahmadinejad --- A Phoenix Rising from the Ashes?" While I still see the likely outcome, for all the President's aggressive declarations, as his "containment" for the rest of his term --- unless the Parliamentary elections in March go his way --- I overstated some specifics. Notable among those was the assertion that the Islamic Constancy Front, seen as pro-Ahmadinejad, had moved towards reconciliation with the "7+8" Committee seeking conservative and principlist unity.

Dave Siavashi brings in further commentary:

I would like to add a few points and a slightly different perspective to Wednesday's interpretation of Iranian politics.

Yes, Ahmadinejad's domestic opponents, including the Supreme Leader would like to contain Ahmadinejad, and I am certain that if it was politically expedient or even possible, they would have already done so.

The problem for the Supreme Leader, is that he made some judgement calls which have reduced his options. He has essentlally cornered himself. He cannot get rid of Ahmadinejad without the potential of incurring potentially fatal damage to his own reputation.

Ayatollah Khamenei's fate is, in this way, tied to Ahmadinejad's.

What led to this entanglement?

In 2009, following the disputed Presidential election, Khamenei threw his full weight behind Ahmadinejad, openly endorsing him and declaring that the vote was valid and final. He designated the protesters in the streets as enemies of the state and threatened harsh retaliation against any further demonstration. This was followed by a brutal crackdown, leaving scores dead, thousands arrested, and atrocities like the tortures and murders at Kahrizak detention centre.

The Supreme Leader payed a huge price for this decision. Ahmadinejad's actions as President today are the direct result of Khamenei's intervention in the politics of the nation ---intervention in the form of an illegal, illegitimate, irreligious, and immoral use of violent force against his own people.

The Iranian people, who payed the biggest price for all of this folly. While many of them are in prison, including leaders of the Green Movement, the majority of those people that we saw in the streets of Tehran and other cities, including the millions on June 15, 2009, are not in prison. And they have not forgotten.

Even the slimmest chance of public tension in the form of more protests, at a moment when international pressure against Iran is high, makes it virtually impossible for Khamenei to ditch Ahmadinejad before his term is up.

My guess is Ahmadinejad knows this, which is why he has decided to remind his opponents that he has options. And with the Presidential election more than 18 months away, Ahmadinejad still has time to consolidate and use his power. A warning every now and then, both to the people and to Khamenei, serves the President well. Meanwhile, he'll hold his trump card of "damaging documents", and who knows, depending on how far the feud goes in this game of chicken, he may even use it. The outcome of such an action would be difficult to predict.

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