Leadership: Sex, Lies, and Videotape in Iran


December13, 2006: The 15th Asia Games were held in Doha, Qatar, earlier this month. Among those attending the opening ceremonies on December 1st was Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Part of the ceremonies included troupes of young women singing and dancing. Now Ahmadinejad makes a big deal about being a fervent Moslem of the strictest observance. Nevertheless, he did not excuse himself from this portion of the ceremonies.

When the news hit back home in Iran, the reaction from many fundamentalist clerics and their supporters was quite hostile. Ahmadinejad attempted to dodge the issue, by claiming he wasn't present. Unfortunately, there was video tape showing him taking in the festivities. Ahmadinejad then claimed that the tape was "faked" and blamed the Western media (a favorite target of anyone who has to deal with bad news). But there was a lot of tape, and some it was from definitely pro-Islamist media.

As a result, the hardline Islamist clergy who really run Iran, already unhappy about Ahmadinejad's popularity with the religiously conservative poor in the country, have proposed moving up the presidential elections, thus cutting short his term in office.
Signs that Ahmadinejad's grip may be loosening are not only coming from the radical right. In a visit to a university just a few days ago, Ahmadinejad, who has pledged to purge the country's educational system of "liberal professors," found himself being booed by students and faculty.

So Ahmadinejad's days in power may be numbered. Who will repace him, however, is difficult to determine. He won the 2005 presidential election by being more conservative than Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who had served as president from 1989-1997. But it was a narrow victory, in a run off. So Rafsanjani, who has occasionally gone on record as opposing some of Ahmadinejad's actions, might possibly offer himself as a candidate. But his age, 72, and his "pragmatic conservative" views, may make him unacceptable to the religious leadership.


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