Leadership: Clash of Conservatives in Iran


February28, 2007: There seems to be a major political clash developing in Iran. The religious leadership seems to want to avoid an outright clash with the UN/U.S. over the nuclear issue, and appears to prefer not having nukes. Apparently, they believe having nukes makes them more vulnerable to attack than not having them. This is not as unreasonable as it may seem at first – after all, they'll never be able to have enough nukes to deter the US, and so their nuclear "threat" will have little impact on American policy. Worse, even if they have just one or two nukes, it will be enough to seriously threaten Israel, which they believe would have no compunctions in taking preemptive action.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, on the other hand, appears to ignore this calculus. He keeps saying the country has a right to do anything it wants in the nuclear field. This is part of the growing power struggle between the more radical Ahmadinejad and the more conservative clergy. The religious leadership has already several times told Ahmadinejad that the country's nuclear program is their responsibility, not his. That's because the powers of the Iranian president are restricted to domestic issues, and do not cover the armed forces or foreign policy. Ahmadinejad does have a lot of support among the rural peasantry and national militia. But in a clash with the clerics he'll almost certainly lose, mainly because the religious conservatives and the social liberals in the country would unite behind the mullahs.


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