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Monday
Feb042013

Iran Analysis: Ahmadinejad Humiliated as Parliament Dismisses Minister

Audio of the confrontation between President Ahmadinejad and Speaker of Parliament Larijani on Sunday


Let's be clear. Sunday's confusion over whether Iran will attend renewed talks on its nuclear programme was not the most important story of the day.

That honour was taken by Parliament's removal of the Minister of Labour. Or, rather, it was the humiliation of President Ahmadinejad as he tried to prevent that dismissal.

The sudden announcement that the Majlis would consider the fine of Minster Abdolreza Sheikholeslami --- accused of a refusal to remove controversial Ahmadinejad aide Saeed Mortazavi from an important Government position --- had brought Ahmadinejad to the floor of Parliament. After all, this was really an attack on him, given his "red line" that he would not allow an political attack on his inner circle.

Ahmadinejad decided not to defend, but to go on the attack. Attempting an extraordinary bit of political theatre, he finally brought one of the "secret" files that he has threatened for 18 months to bring out against his rivals and enemies.

And this was not just an enemy.  It was no less than the Speaker of Parliament, Ali Larijani, and his family.

The President claimed he had an audio tape --- "Should I tell? Should I tell?" --- that implicated Larijani's brother in an attempt to get a political favour from Mortazavi, the supposed source of Parliament's anger.

Larijani called the bet: "Go ahead."

And soon it was clear that Ahmadinejad did not hold the high cards. His audio tape was inaudible, so he attempted to describe the supposed hypocrisy and corruption of Fazel Larijani. Doing so, he was trying to paint the wider picture: the stories spread of the financial crimes of Ali Larijani, brother and head of judiciary Sadegh Larijani, and brother and senior judiciary official Mohammad Javad Larijani were true.

But Ahmadinejad could not establish his own story. Ali Larijani let him run out of steam, and struck. Far from being the criminal, the Speaker was the victim of a devious and malicious man --- the real criminals were next to the President:

You were supposed to talk about impeachment of your minister, but instead you accused me. Even if my brother has done this, then what does it have to do with me and what does it have to do with this impeachment session?

I also met your brother Davoud, and he has spoken about you and your "relatives" [such as Ahmadinejad's controversial right-hand man Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai] about their relationship with fitna [sedition] and [the "terrorist" organisation] MKO. Does this allow me to tell everyone about these meetings?

Gathering himself, the President asked if he could continue. Larijani said no: it was time to vote on the fate of the Minister of Labor.

Then the Speaker put in the telling farewell attack. Ahmadinejad had shown he had no ethical and moral standards. He had betrayed velayat-e faqih, the Iranian system overseen by the Supreme Leader. Ahmadinejad should leave.

The President left. The Minister was dismissed.

Of course, this is not Ahmadinejad's final act. He has four more months left in his term, and he is not the type who will go quietly.

However, his authority is now gone. Increasingly boxed by political opponents chipping away at his economic programme and his political manoeuvres, he will watch as the politics that matter move to the Presidential campaign.

The months of chatter that Ahmadinejad will have his plans and his machinery to promote a successor can be put aside. The Supreme Leader has blessed the three-man committee --- his senior advisor Ali Akbar Velayati, Tehran Mayor Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf, and leading MP and Khamenei relative Gholam Ali Haddad Adel --- to pick the winner. After the vote, Ahmadinejad will still have some allies in Parliament and in the bureaucracy, but they will be a minority, under the threat of the humiliation that the President received yesterday.

On Wednesday, Ahmadinejad will get one more burst of headline glory when he will attend an Islamic summit in Cairo, thus becoming the first Iranian President to step foot in Egypt. Next week, he will take his place for the ceremonies on the 34th anniversary of the Islamic Republic.

But that will be ceremony only, not authority, and it will be one of his last.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, after almost eight years of Presidential political drama, has effectively been thrown off the stage.

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