Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is more known for making controversial statements about the Islamic regime’s external issues, such as its view towards the holocaust and the state of Israel.
However last night during an interview with the Iranian state television, the Iranian president made a statement which is likely to reverberate long and far within the halls of power of the Islamic Republic for a while to come.
The presenter asked Ahmadinejad whether he will reveal the name of corrupt officials as he has only one year left in office. In reply to the presenter’s statement about his time left at the Iranian president’s office, Ahmadinejad stated “how do you know”?
Until now it was suspected that Ahmadinejad had plans to back the appointment of his right hand man Esfandiyar Rahim Mashai as the next president. If Mashai is elected, it’d mean Ahmadinejad would continue to wield influence in the government. In fact I was the first person to write about this in the international press back in September 2010.
Mashai is a very controversial figure inside the regime. His previous statement that Iran’s problem is with the Israeli government and not the Israeli people made him many enemies and earned him severe retribution from Khamenei.
He is also believed to be the brainchild of Ahmadinejad’s quasi nationalist idea of Iranian – Islam, something which concerns the regime leadership greatly. The regime has always tried to put the emphasis on its religious character.
Others within the regime dislike him because he of pure jealousy. His meteoric rise as Ahmadinejad’s right hand man has eclipsed the promotion of many who have been part of the regime for far longer. It should be emphasized that the two are old friends. Mashai’s daughter is married to Ahmadinejad’s eldest son Mehdi. Here is a photo from the party.
After Ahmadinejad’s statement last night, many within the regime are going to be convinced that Ahmadinejad is now going to use regime funds and his own office to openly back Mashai.
This will not necessarily mean that Mashai will win.
What it will mean is more intense political infighting within the regime.
This is bad news for Khamenei. Regime instability will only hurt and weaken its falling legitimacy. This is a far more serious danger than sanctions or a military attack, as it emanates from deep within the regime.
Khamenei should worry less about spinning centrifuges, and more about divisions within his regime. The latter is far more crucial to regime survival and the former is no cure for it.