Monday, December 12, 2005

Iran Implosion Watch 2

This CS Monitor story says it all.

The president's fourth candidate for the top oil post, veteran ministry official Kazem Vaziri-Hamaneh, was finally approved by parliament Sunday. But that "victory" comes amid rising concern among clerics and many conservatives about Ahmadinejad's decisions to replace top managers with less-experienced ideologues.

While Iran's parliament is dominated by conservatives, analysts say that Ahmadinejad can only count on one-quarter of the votes. The parliament rejected his first three inexperienced candidates for oil minister - an unprecedented setback for a new president here. The industry generates as much as 80 percent of government revenues.

Now some in parliament are trying to unseat his defense minister over the military plane crash that killed 108 people last week.

There's more good stuff about exactly what quarters he's taking attack from and over what, but it seems that Ahmadinejad is proving unacceptable to the old guard clerics and the reformist groups all at once. Both the old guard and the reformists have the common goal of decreasing Iran's isolation, but Ahmadinejad seems deadset on increasing it. More troubling are that many of his picks to run Iran's government are ideologue veterans of the 1980s Iran-Iraq War, extremist mujihadeen that often take a harder line than even the clerics and mullahs want to.

Part of Ahmadinejad's woes are likely to increase as he defies the IAEA and El Baradei. El Baradei, usually reserved and over-cautious, is out sounding like Dick Cheney in early 2003. Netanyahu in Israel is promising an attack if elected (that's quite an ahem innovative platform to run on). Perhaps Iran's fundamentalists have a streak of pragmatism as well.

"The fundamentalists criticize [Ahmadinejad] because they don't want a bad situation to get worse," says Mohammad Ali Ayazi, a cleric and professor at the prestigious seminary in Iran's religious center of Qom. "The more [Ahmadinejad's cabinet] do not satisfy the promises they made, the criticism will increase toward them," says Mr. Ayazi. The president's [populist] election slogans "have less color now; it's not the same. Maybe after six months, they will have no color at all."