Even the rumour smacked of disinformation and/or the desparation of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's camp. Tehran Emrooz --- linked to the President's conservative rival, Tehran Mayor Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf --- was claiming that Ahmadinejad would seek to become Mayor, a post he held from 2003 to 2005, when his Presidential term ended in 2013. The post would allow Ahmadinejad to hold a portion of the power that he craves, while he and his allies tried to put a "close friend" into the Presidency.
Probably a story which is more smoke than substance, but that smoke is still significant. So was Ahmadinejad's supposed defiance on Thursday as he vigorously defended the second phase of his subsidy cuts plans, still to be implemented five months after officials said it was imminent, and declared that his critics were covering up their failures as they slandered him.
That defiance tipped off weakness, rather than strength. The President is a fighter, of course, but here he was fighting to save the centrepiece of his economic table, rocking amidst both political fighting and the inflation surrounding the first stage of the subsidy cuts.
Equally significant is that Ahmadinejad, as he is battling in this area, is saying little or nothing on another. Instrumental in the effort to get nuclear talks in 2009 and to keep the prospect alive in 2010-2011, the President is silent in 2012. Given his nature, I doubt that is Ahmadinejad's choice --- he has been cut out of the nuclear issue.
Some will say that Ahmadinejad is "safe" because of the damaging information that he holds --- and has threatened to reveal --- on other members of the Islamic Republic's elite. That could well be true. It looks, for example, as that option of "I'll Take You Down with Me" has saved his advisors such as Saeed Mortazavi and Mohammad Sharif Malekzadeh from prosecution.
But "safe" is not the same as dominant or even influential. The President is being squeezed on a daily basis. Next year, he could be yesterday's man. The more interesting question, however, is whether he already is.