Ahmadinejad’s Crusade
Fall/Winter - Number 21

Ahmadinejad’s Crusade

Jamsheed K. Choksy

h aving claimed that the Arab Spring was a belated affirmation of the Islamic Republic’s three-decade-old revolution, Iran’s fundamentalist politicians are being confronted by a new and serious domestic challenge. That threat emanates not from the Green Movement, which has run out of steam in the face of regime repression, but from political turmoil taking place at an ever accelerating pace within the highest levels of Iran’s political elites. It has culminated in a no-holds-barred struggle between the mullahs, led by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and their hand-picked former ally, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.1

Mahmoud’s maneuvers

Ahmadinejad began charting a divergent course for the executive branch of Iran’s government, independent of that taken by the mainstream of other so-called “principlists” and fundamentalists, shortly after he began his second term as president in August 2009.2 Since then, it has been a rocky road for all involved.

Iran’s president and all his men and women did not hesitate to violently quash the Iranian people’s legitimate quest for sociopolitical freedom in 2009. So power and politics are at the heart of this intra-regime revolt, not idealism or genuine concern for the country’s welfare. Yet, even though their goals may be different, the Green Movement and the president’s followers have arrived at a similar conclusion: why do Iranians need a supreme leader and a theocratic system of government after having overthrown an absolute monarch in 1979?3

At first glance, it may seem that Ahmadinejad has been losing the internal political struggle he launched against his religious patrons. Yet, the opposite may actually be true. The Iranian president lost only one major battle recently, in April, over the firing of an intelligence minister who is a Shi’ite cleric close to the Supreme Leader.4 But Ahmadinejad has sidelined that individual from major cabinet decisions by creating a parallel intelligence branch within his own executive office. A few months before the clash over intelligence minister Hojatoleslam Heidar Moslehi, the president got away with firing a Foreign Minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, who was linked to the Supreme Leader. More recently, he appointed a close supporter, Ali Saeedloo, as Vice President for International Affairs. Before that he appointed five Special Envoys to “improve relations hurt by the clergy’s isolationist mentality” with various nations and regions of the world, despite warnings from Khamenei that doing so would diminish the Foreign Ministry’s role.5

Despite criticism from the clerics and parliamentarians regarding his administration’s wavering support for the Assad regime in Syria, Ahmadinejad publically called for “talks … a military solution is never the right solution … freedom and justice and respect for others are the rights of all … governments have to recognize these rights” between the protestors and the government in Damascus. Interestingly, in an about-face since the summer of 2009, that position also has increasingly and overtly been adopted by the executive branch in relation to Iran’s own protest movements as a means of casting blame for domestic repression upon the theocracy rather than the bureaucracy.6

A much greater blow to Ahmadinejad occurred when a wide array of Iranian politicians, not only mullahs and parliamentarians but even Green Movement leaders, banded together to reject his nuclear fuel swap deal with the West. Yet even that setback in November 2009 became an instance of making lemonade from lemons; Iran’s president benefited politically from the domestic prestige of continuing Iran’s nuclear quest. He also went on to chastise his opponents for hindering a deal which could have resulted in a rollback of economic sanctions that have strangled the country’s economic growth. So Ahmadinejad lays blame for Iran’s 20 percent inflation and 13 percent unemployment rates “at the pulpits of the mullahs” for their intransigence with the West, while pointing to the International Monetary Fund’s praise for the economic reforms his government has undertaken.7

Another victory in the tussle with supporters of theocracy was won in November 2010 when Iran’s majles, or parliament, backed away from impeaching Ahmadinejad on allegations of overstepping his authority. In essence, that body realized it lacked sufficient votes among its members to follow through on the threat. Calls to “summon him for questioning” by parliamentarians this summer met a similar fate. A mediation committee appointed by Supreme Leader Khamenei and intended to wrest power away from the president has shown little teeth in stopping his thrust against the Shi’ite clerics. Nor has the fundamentalist establishment been able to drive Ahmadinejad into hiding the way it did Iran’s first post-revolutionary president, Abolhassan Bani Sadr, when that chief executive disobeyed the ayatollahs.8

Despite concerted attempts to investigate and arrest the president’s allies, only minor supporters have fallen victim to the mullahs. Ahmadinejad instead has played cat and mouse with clerics who seek to oust his appointees, moving his loyalists into new positions as a way of preserving their role in politics. In August 2011, for example, the majles acquiesced to his efforts to reorganize government ministries and appoint allies to key ministerial posts after heated debate.9 And when clerical loyalists have sought to push back on Ahmadinejad’s advances, they have found themselves in the political crosshairs. Thus, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commander Mohammad Ali Jafari’s threat of “military action against the president and all others who disavow the Islamic Revolution” was greeted with charges of attempting a coup by politicians and press alike—so much so that Supreme Leader Khamenei found himself forced to instruct the IRGC to stay out of politics. Ahmadinejad, for his part, moved swiftly to appoint IRGC Brigadier General Rostam Ghasemi as Minister of Petroleum, thereby tightening the executive branch’s control over Iran’s most profitable export while reinforcing his own power base within the IRGC.10 Through that administrative maneuver, Iran’s president also ensured that a confidant now serves as head of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

Theocratic retreat

In response, Iran’s ayatollahs have railed against the president, and plotted to excise him and the threat his ideas pose. Those clerics are seeking to remove the chief executive and his appointees from office, if the latter “do not fall back in line with fundamentalist tenets.”11 All of which presents an interesting paradox; for all of the revulsion he has engendered in the West, Ahmadinejad now appears to be leading the fight for many of the changes the world would like to see take place in Iran: social and religious liberalization which many Iranians favor, political reconfiguration away from a theocratic oligarchy which many Iranians have come to despise, economic reform which is much needed in the country, and even attempts at reaching a negotiated settlement with the West on the issue of nuclear power. He even has acceded to a military hotline to avoid confrontations between U.S. and Iranian forces in the Persian Gulf.12 That is why Ahmadinejad is being denounced, in both religious and constitutional terms, by stalwarts of the Islamic Revolution.

The condemnations have been quite shrill. Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, who heads the Guardian Council, and was once an ardent supporter of the president, has accused Ahmadinejad and other members of the executive branch of cronyism, pandering to “irreligious” elements, and bribery. Other opponents have even suggested that the president should be arrested on charges of “negotiating with NATO countries.” A prominent religious singer labeled Presidential Chief of Staff Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, who has been at the forefront of calls to dismantle the velayat-e faqih (rule of the jurisprudent), the governing ideology underpinning the Islamic Republic, as a Jewish irreligious opponent of the theocracy and called for his murder. Playing on Ahmadinejad’s alleged Jewish background, the mullahs accuse those who seek to change the political system as “being enchanted with the United States and Israel.” Such claims have a strange irony, for Ahmadinejad is well known at home and abroad as a denier of the Holocaust who does not recognize Israel and suggests “the Zionist regime runs counter to the dignity, independence and interest of all world nations.”13

Yet in the turbulent world of contemporary Iranian politics, it is imprudent to count President Ahmadinejad and his faction down and out—as many Iran watchers have been wont to do. He is not even a lame duck, despite multiple and often gleeful predictions of his imminent political demise.14 Rather than retreat under threats from the clerical elite, Ahmadinejad and his cohorts have fought back, depicting their religious opponents as “liars and cheats” who are out of touch with the Iranian population and its modernist needs. They paint the clergymen and other fundamentalists as “ineffective retrogrades” who cannot reconcile much-needed sociopolitical, economic, and administrative changes with religion. News media outlets that support the executive branch have called for an “end to the theocrats’ uncontrolled violence.”15

Ahmadinejad even appears to have set his sights on his one-time political backer and inspiration, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Ahmadinejad used an August interview with the official Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting Service to direct a blistering denunciation of Khamenei, saying: “There are those who consider themselves so absolute that they think the entire 7 billion population of the world belong to hell and he alone to the heavens. This is the sign of his downfall.”16

Similar arguments have proliferated in Iran’s media. Among them is a new video, entitled “Lessons of History,” which recently hit Iranian airwaves. It insinuates that the ayatollahs led by Khamenei are modern versions of the Umayyad caliphs (who ruled Iran from AD 661-750). The comparison is damning indeed; according to Shi’ite tradition, it was the Umayyads who forcefully wrested the leadership of the Muslim community from the family of Ali (Shi’ism’s first imam or spiritual guide).17 Iran’s clergy, in other words, is depicted as usurpers, while Iran’s president is depicted in a positive—even messianic—light.

The message has created deep divisions in Iran’s clerical elite. Those like Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi, who subscribe to messianism and the imminent return of the twelfth imam, still speak of having “faith in Ahmadinejad and backing him.” But others, like Assembly of Experts Chairman Ayatollah Mohammad Reza Mahdavi Kani, side with Khamenei’s call for an end to political infighting through unity under the Supreme Leader’s guidance.18 Yet, given their limited effectiveness to date, whether the ayatollahs will even be able to prevent the executive branch from transforming the Ministry of Islamic Guidance and Culture into a nationalistic Ministry of Culture is unclear.

The nationalistic goals, based on glorification of Iran’s ancient or pre-Islamic Zoroastrian culture, of that revamped government agency were laid out by the executive branch’s words and deeds during public celebrations associated with the exhibition of an edict known as the Cyrus Cylinder and ascribed to the Persian or Achaemenid dynasty’s founder Cyrus II the Great (ruled 550–530 BC). Khamenei has responded by urging both the political elite and the general public not to turn to the past: “Insist on Iran after Islam. The honors of Islamic-era Iran are not found in our pre-Islamic history.” Yet, among Iranians nationalism has routinely triumphed over religion in the past—and so the mullahs have valid reason to be worried.19

A populist message

Not only is Ahmadinejad pushing aside the mullahs on both the political and religious fronts, he also has begun linking his political faction with Iran’s socially and economically dissatisfied youth. Under his direction, the executive branch is attempting to mend fences broken when many young Iranians’ aspirations were brutally repressed in the wake of Ahmadinejad’s contested re-election.20 It has done so by becoming a champion of popular forms of expression (such as dress, cosmetics and other “Western” influences) in the face of clerical austerity.

Public mingling of teenagers and adults across gender lines is becoming more commonplace in cities like Tehran, Esfahan, and Shiraz—and Ahmadinejad’s allies are garnering a degree of goodwill by showing their support for such activities. Divorce rates have risen 54 percent in Iran since the Islamic Revolution, with one in seven marriages now ending in legal separation. Eighty percent of high school teenagers date. Adults and teenagers resent being questioned, beaten, arrested, and imprisoned by the morals police for what is widely regarded as natural and necessary human behavior.21 Members of the executive branch understand this, and have ridiculed attempts to stifle music, dance, and even water gun fights—all of which can draw prison sentences on a par with consuming pork and alcohol. They point to these incidents as basic examples of why religion must be separated from politics like it was in pre-Islamic Iran.22 When clerics dispatch the morality police to arrest participants, passions are further inflamed against the theocratic state.

To this end, the president has found it in his interest to challenge the supreme leader’s restrictive stance on public holidays and merriment, and directives from the chief executive have blocked implementation of clerically-mandated segregation of female and male students at state-run universities, much to the mullahs’ chagrin. The president’s actions have found support among those institutions’ administrators and faculty too.

Unlikely as it seems for politicians who held on to power through suppression of the Green Movement, members of the executive branch even have begun calling for greater freedom of action for politicians, scholars, and reporters. In the wake of his disputed reelection, it is reported that Ahmadinejad even suggested “the people feel suffocated and it may be necessary to allow more personal and social freedoms, including more freedom of the press.”23 Most distressing to the fundamentalist clergymen, however, is the fact many Iranians see Shi’ism specifically as stifling both liberty and progress, and so reject organized religiosity—and that Ahmadinejad and his close advisors have begun exploiting this fact.

Politics, not altruism

There is cold political calculation at work in these actions. Ahmadinejad and his cohorts, the proverbial Young Turks of the Islamic Revolution, are said to have concluded that “the majority of Iranians are tired of the Revolution and of paying for the negative implications of preserving it.” They calculate that voters who want to cast off the Islamic Revolution’s failed principles will be a decisive voice in the next parliamentary and presidential elections (slated to take place in March 2012 and June 2013, respectively), and have tailored their message to suit. The strategy seems to be working; a recent poll showed both Ahmadinejad and Mashaei to be among the top three most popular politicians in Tehran.24 Indeed, even a curious degree of rapprochement seems to be developing between the Green Movement’s incarcerated leaders (whose detention Ahmadinejad now says he opposes but cannot prevent), reformist clerics like former Presidents Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami, and Ahmadinejad’s so-called “deviant current.” Their shared goal, it increasingly seems to the hard-liners and others, is to “dismantle clerical rule.”25

Although Ahmadinejad is a growing threat to the ideological core of the Islamic state, Khamenei lacks the broad-based support and the votes in parliament to dismiss him. In addition, such removal could provoke a clash that the Supreme Leader may not survive. Essentially, the Supreme Leader is in a bind. Sacking Ahmadinejad would trigger early presidential elections and more protests at a time when the rest of the Muslim Middle East is in turmoil. In May, for instance, the president’s supporters battled the Supreme Leader’s followers on the streets of Shiraz over a provincial administrative appointment while the city’s policemen stood by bemusedly rather than disengage the factions. Another clash occurred outside the Tehran Book Fair when mullahs attempted to censor the publications which were on sale.26 So Ahmadinejad and his allies may have more time left than generally assumed to further dismantle the prevailing status quo.

Moreover, the intra-regime struggles are unlikely to abate in the near future. The first ballot showdown will be at the parliamentary elections of March 2012 where the mullahs will attempt to sideline reformists of various sorts through nixing the participation of the latter. The pro-clergy Guardian Council must certify all candidates for public office as conforming to the Islamic Revolution’s goals. For now the Guardian Council has pledged to “prevent infiltration of outsiders and elements that have anti-Islamic views, or hold eclectic beliefs, into the Iranian government.” Supreme Leader Khamenei apparently is concerned those elections of 2012 may trigger a public uprising against the mullahs: “Elections have always been a challenging issue for our country … we should be careful this challenge does not hurt the country’s security.”27

Ahmadinejad’s faction is well aware of this possibility and, like the Green Movement, is counting on building up a sufficient political following to force the Guardian Council’s members into accepting a wide ideological range of contestants—as many as 150 from their faction alone—for the 290 parliamentary seats up for grabs. Some of his prominent supporters have even established a new political party, said to be linked with the Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, intent on ousting opponents of the president like Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani and Tehran Mayor Mohammad-Bagher Qalibaf. If successful, they can then focus on pressuring the mullahs into permitting individuals like Mashaei or Baghaei to run for the presidency in June 2013. The Green Movement’s leadership, including Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, hope such actions will give them another chance to run for the presidency as well—ensuring a centrist comeback to Iranian politics irrespective of which faction ends up in power.28

Iran—and the world—may benefit

Ahmadinejad evokes viscerally negative reactions in the West for his denial of the Holocaust, threats against Jerusalem, and support of Hezbollah and Hamas, and subscription to the conspiracy theory that the 9/11 terrorist attacks were planned by the U.S as an excuse to attack Muslim nations. He will never gain acceptance in American and European political circles for those reasons. Many of his supporters are seen as sanctions-busting, nuclear weapons–building, and terrorist-supporting threats to the West. But, unpopularity in the U.S., EU, and Israel notwithstanding, their domestic actions have increasingly served to undermine the oppressive regime of which they are a central part. Its collapse, or even fragmentation, could open the door to more representative governance in Iran and a less hostile nation in international affairs. Unlike most Americans, Europeans, and Israelis, hard-line Shi’ite clergymen see the writing on the wall, and fear Iran opening to the world. As Mehdi Mohammadi, an editorial board member of the hard-line Kayhan newspaper, told members of the Ansar-e Hezbollah pressure group, “The most important program of the deviant current led by Ahmadinejad is to get closer to the United States and start negotiations with that country, for he who manages to negotiate with the United States will become extremely popular in the domestic political setting since the people are enthusiastic about it.”29

The struggle within the government, combined with the public’s political, social, and religious dissatisfaction, has ensured that Iran’s polity is a tinderbox. Ahmadinejad’s real legacy in the history of Iran is likely to be his having played a prominent role in, to use the words of the Assembly of Experts chief Ayatollah Kani, “slicing up the Islamic Revolution like sacrificial meat.” It is ironic that Ahmadinejad, once seen as an electoral “miracle” by the mullahs, is leading the most serious challenge to the Islamic Republic’s theocratic system of government since its inception in 1979.30 He may not be liked by the U.S. and its partners, but Iran’s president and his group of reactionaries are far from politically impotent. And they may end up benefiting Iran and the world while pursuing their own political goals.

 

Jamsheed K. Choksy is professor of Iranian, Central Eurasian, and International Studies, senior fellow at the Center on American and Global Security, and former director of the Middle Eastern studies program at Indiana University. He is also a member of the National Council on the Humanities at the U.S. National Endowment for the Humanities. The views expressed are his own.

 
  1. Jamsheed K. Choksy and Carol E. B. Choksy, “The Arab Rising – Part II,” Yale Global, February 4, 2011, http://yaleglobal.yale.edu/content/arab-rising-part-ii; Jamsheed K. Choksy, “Iran’s Theocracy Implodes,” Real Clear World, August 4, 2009, http://www.realclearworld.com /articles/2009/08/04/irans_theocracy_implodes.html; “Persian Press Review,” Tehran Times, June 20, 2011, http://old.tehrantimes.com/index_View.asp?code=242725; Ilan Berman, “Iran’s Revolutionary Moment?” American Spectator, June 22, 2009, http://spectator.org/archives/2009/06/22/irans-revolutionary-moment/print#; Stephen McGlinchey and Adam Groves, ed., The Anatomy of a Crisis: Perspectives on the 2009 Iranian Election (London: e-International Relations, 2009), http://www.e-ir.info/wp-content/uploads/The-Iranian-Election-Crisis-Collection.pdf; Nader Hashemi and Danny Postel, ed., The People Reloaded: The Green Movement and the Struggle for Iran’s Future (Brooklyn: Melville House Publishing, 2011); and Jamsheed K. Choksy, “Why Iran’s Islamic Government Is Unraveling,” Current Trends in Islamist Ideology 10 (2010), 21–41, http://www.currenttrends.org/research/detail/why-irans-islamic-government-is-unraveling.
  2. Jamsheed K. Choksy, “Ahmadinejad’s Nationalist Attack on the Islamic Republic,” World Politics Review, September 27, 2010, http://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/articles/6517/ahmadinejads-nationalist-attack-on-the-islamic-republic.
  3. Jamsheed K. Choksy, “Why Do Iranians Need a Supreme Leader?” National Review, June 24, 2009, http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/227759/why-do-iranians-need-supreme-leader/jamsheed-k-choksy#.
  4. Sophie Hares, ed., “Iran’s Khamenei Rejects Minister’s Resignation,” Reuters, April 17, 2011, http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/04/17/us-iran-minister-idUSTRE73G1LA20110417.
  5. James Reynolds, “Manouchehr Mottaki Fired from Iran Foreign Minister Job,” BBC News Middle East, December 12, 2010, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-11984931; Muhammad Sahimi, “Ahmadinejad ‘Illegally’ Names New VP in Foreign Affairs Power Play,” PBS Frontline Tehran Bureau, August 12, 2011, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh /pages/frontline/tehranbureau/2011/08/ahmadinejad-illegally-names-new-vp-in-foreign-affairs-power-play.html#ixzz1VVKNRX3x.
  6. For Ahmadinejad’s comments regarding Syria and people’s rights, see Associated Press, September 7, 2011, http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5jyqcM 1OHG1b-XvytMl7epIkzd7fQ?docIdƒ1ffe15ab5a427db5da8a3414c34b51. See also published in the semi-official Mehr News Agency, September 8, 2011, http://www.mehr news.com/en/newsdetail.aspx?NewsID02644.
  7. Carol E. B. Choksy and Jamsheed K. Choksy, “Waiting for Tehran,” Foreign Policy, November 24, 2009, http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2009/11/24/waiting_for_tehran? page=full; Statistical Center of Iran, “The Economic Indicators,” Donya-e Eqtesad, August 18, 2011, http://www.donya-e-eqtesad.com/Default_view.asp?@=266246; “Economic Jihad,” The Economist, June 23, 2011, http://www.economist.com/node/18867440; and Ilan Berman, “IMF Betrays West with Mullahs’ Malarky,” Washington Times, August 29, 2011, http://www.ilanberman.com/10198/imf-betrays-west-with-mullahs-malarky.
  8. Jamsheed K. Choksy, “Is This Really the End for Ahmadinejad?” Foreign Policy, November 24, 2011), http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/11/24/is_this_really_the_end_for_ ahmadinejad?page=full; “Persian Press Review,” Tehran Times, July 20, 2011, http://old. tehrantimes.com/index_View.asp?code$4369; Ali Akbar Dareini, “Iran’s Top Leader Names Mediator in Power Struggle,” Associated Press, July 25, 2011, http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5ga6AhNwqhJv3yRdwB4ayfXaS8CMQ?docId=2dcc571b9d3a4cd89c1ce01014cf9e9e; Abolhassan Bani Sadr, My Turn to Speak: Iran, the Revolution, and Secret Deals with the U.S. (Dulles: Potomac Books, 1991).
  9. American Enterprise Institute Iran Tracker, May 26, 2011, http://www.irantracker.org /roundup/iran-news-round-may-26-2011; “Cabinet,” Presidency of the Islamic Republic of Iran, August 19, 2011, http://www.president.ir/en/; “Persian Press Review,” Tehran Times, July 24, 2011, http://old.tehrantimes.com/index_View.asp?code=244574; Muhammad Sahimi, “Majles Approves Ahmadinejad Ministerial Nominees after ‘Stifled’ Debate,” PBS Frontline Tehran Bureau, August 4, 2011, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/ tehranbureau/2011/08/majles-approves-ahmadinejad-ministerial-nominees-after-stifled-debate.html#ixzz1VVUTWnT6.
  10. Alireza Nader, “Ahmadinejad vs. the Revolutionary Guard,” United States Institute of Peace Iran Primer (Washington, D.C.: United States Institute of Peace, 2011), July 11, 2011, http://iranprimer.usip.org/blog/2011/jul/11/ahmadinejad-vs-revolutionary-guards; Muhammad Sahimi, “Speaking of Freedom,” PBS Frontline Tehran Bureau, July 11, 2011, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/tehranbureau /2011/07/speaking-of-freedom-mostafa-tajzadeh-on-the-upcoming-elections.html; American Enterprise Institute Iran Tracker, June 21, 2011, http://www.irantracker.org /roundup/iran-news-round-june-21-2011; Farnaz Fassihi and Benoit Faucon, “Iran’s Pick for Oil Post Signals Power Shift,” Wall Street Journal, July 28, 2011, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142405311190480030 4576471503182543390.html; Saeed Kamali Dehghan, “Iran Revolutionary Guards Commander Becomes New President of OPEC,” Guardian, August 3, 2011, http://www. guardian.co.uk/world/2011/aug/03/iranian-opec-president-revolutionary-guards; and Mahan Abedin, “The Rise and Rise of Iran’s Guards,” Asia Times, August 20, 2011, http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/MH20Ak03.html.
  11. Jamsheed K. Choksy, “Iran’s Leadership Struggle Reveals Secular-Islamist Split,” World Politics Review, May 13, 2011, http://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/articles/8838/irans-leadership-struggle-reveals-secular-islamist-split.
  12. Jamsheed K. Choksy, “Don’t Count Iran’s Ahmadinejad out Yet,” World Politics Review, September 16, 2011, http://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/articles/10039/dont-count-irans-ahmadinejad-out-yet; Anne Gearan, “Iran Open to ‘Hot Line’ with U.S.,” Forbes, September 23, 2011, http://www.forbes.com/feeds/ap/2011/09/23/general-us-us-iran-hotline_8697835.html.
  13. Asr Iran (Tehran), August 23, 2011, http://www.asriran.com/fa/news/177731/; Afrooz Mahdavi, “Is the Arrest of Ahmadinejad Imminent?” PBS Frontline Tehran Bureau, August 19, 2011, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/tehranbureau/2011/08/is-ahmadinejads-arrest-imminent.html; Digarban (Tehran), August 25, 2011, http://www.digarban.com/node/2103; on Ahmadinejad’s background see Jamsheed K. Choksy, “Does Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Have Jewish Roots? True or Not, the Rumors Matter; Here’s Why,” Foreign Policy, October 6, 2009, http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2009/10/05/is_mahmoud_ahmadinejad_jewish?page=full. For Ahmadinejad’s words see Press TV, August 26, 2011, http://www.presstv.ir/detail/195852.html.
  14. For example Suzanne Maloney and Ray Takeyh, “Ahmadinejad’s Fall, America’s Loss,” New York Times, June 15, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/16/opinion/16Takeyh-Maloney.html?_r=3&scp=2&sq=takeyh&st=cse; Karim Sadjadpour, “The Rise and Fall of Iran’s Ahmadinejad,” Washington Post, July 13, 2011, http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-rise-and-fall-of-irans-ahmadinejad/2011/07/08/gIQACK4ADI_story.html; Ali Reza Eshragi, “Ahmadinejad’s Days Numbered?” PBS Frontline Tehran Bureau, July 14, 2011, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/tehranbureau/2011/07/ahmadinejads-days-numbered.html; Meir Javendanfar, “Ahmadinejad, Fighter,” The Atlantic, July 8, 2011, http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2011/07/ahmadinejad-fighter/241601/; Abbas Milani, “Ahmadinejad vs. the Ayatollah,” The National Interest, June 21, 2011, http://nationalinterest.org/article/ahmadinejad-vs-the-ayatollah-5441?page=5.
  15. Thomas Erdbrink, “Iran’s Political Struggle Hits the Box Office,” Washington Post, June 24, 2011, http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle-east/irans-political-struggle-hits-the-box-office/2011/05/01/AGiRkxiH_story.html; “Persian Press Review,” Tehran Times, June 21, 2011, http://old.tehrantimes.com/index_View.asp?code=242797; Jamsheed K. Choksy, “Ahmadinejad Bucks Religious Establishment,” Newsweek/Daily Beast, February 10, 2010, http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2010/02/10/ahmadinejad-bucks-religious-establishment.html.
  16. IRIB News Agency, August 4, 2011, http://www.iribnews.ir/Default.aspx?Page= MainContent&news_num)6518.
  17. The history-based video can be found at http://www.digarban.com/node/2041. On the messianic video, see Jamsheed K. Choksy, “Why is Iran Championing Messianism to the Arab Masses,” e-International Relations, April 19, 2011, http://www.e-ir.info/?p=8348. On “contact with the Imam of the Era,” see American Enterprise Institute Iran Tracker, June 27, 2011, http://www.irantracker.org/roundup/iran-news-round-june-27-2011.
  18. Muhammad Sahimi, “Ayatollahs Feud over Ahmadinejad Support, ‘Freemasons’ in Cabinet,” PBS Frontline Tehran Bureau, July 15, 2011, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/ tehranbureau/2011/07/ayatollahs-clash-over-ahmadinejad-support-freemasons-in-cabinet.html#ixzz1VVs3mRV9; “Assembly of Experts Chairman Attempts to Silence Regime Acrimony,” insideIran.org, July 21, 2011, http://www.insideiran.org/media-analysis/assembly-of-experts-chairman-attempts-to-silence-regime-acrimony/; American Enterprise Institute Iran Tracker, August 22, 2011, http://www.irantracker.org/roundup/ iran-news-round-august-22-2011.
  19. Fars News Agency, September 14, 2010, http://www.farsnews.net/imgrep.php?nn= 8906211503; Mehr (Tehran), September 25, 2010, http://www.mehrnews.com/en/News Detail.aspx?NewsID58487; Khamenei.ir, August 29, 2011, http://farsi.khamenei.ir/ speech -content?id106. See further Choksy, “Ahmadinejad’s Nationalist Attack on the Islamic Republic.”
  20. Larry Rohter, “Living and Loving Underground in Iran,” New York Times, August 19, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/21/movies/circumstance-a-film-of-underground-life-in-iran.html?pagewanted=all; “Iran’s Controversial Report,” Etemaad (Tehran), August 14, 2011, http://www.etemaad.ir/Released/90-05-23/150.htm; Sahimi, “What to Wear?”; See also Jamsheed K. Choksy, “Iran’s Imperial Presidency,” Foreign Policy, September 14, 2009, http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2009/09/14/irans_imperial_presidency.
  21. “Persian Press Review,” Tehran Times, April 29, 2010, http://old.tehrantimes.com/index_ View.asp?code!8405; and (August 6, 2011), http://old.tehrantimes.com/index_ View.asp?code$5596; “Iran Tracker,” American Enterprise Institute Iran Tracker, August 5, 2011, http://www.irantracker.org/roundup/iran-news-round-august-5-2011; “Tales of Love and Sex in Iran,” PBS Frontline Tehran Bureau, July 30, 2011, http://www.pbs.org/ wgbh/pages/frontline/tehranbureau/2011/07/love-and-sex-in-iran.html; Jamsheed K. Choksy and Carol E. B. Choksy, “Taming Globalization? Kebabs, Mini-Skirts and Meth – Part I,” Yale Global, May 18, 2010, http://yaleglobal.yale.edu/content/taming-globalization-kebabs-mini-skirts-and-meth-part-i.
  22. Golnaz Esfandiari and Mehrdad Mirdamadi, “Iran’s Newest Enemy: Water Fights,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, August 17, 2011, http://www.rferl.org/content/persian_ letters_iran_newest_enemy_water_fights/24300088.html; Chrisella Sagers, “Photo of the Day: Water Gun Festival in Tehran,” Diplomatic Courier, August 15, 2011, http://www .diplomaticourier.com/?p457&option=com_wordpress&ItemidE; On the history of religion and politics in Iran, see Richard N. Frye, “Church and State in Iranian History,” Bulletin of the Asia Institute 19 (2005), 27–28; Jamsheed K. Choksy, “Sacral Kingship in Sasanian Iran,” Bulletin of the Asia Institute 2 (1988), 35–52.
  23. http://wikileaks.ch/cable/2010/02/10BAKU98.html.
  24. “Hamid Confesses About Ahmadinejad,” Farda News, June 26, 2011, http://www. fardanews.com/fa
  25. “The Five-Fold Objectives of the Deviant Current,” Javan (Tehran), August 15, 2011, http://www.javanonline.ir/vdcb0wbaarhbawp.uiur.html; Fars News Agency, June 3, 2011, http://www.farsnews.net/plarg.php?nn=M764768.jpg; American Enterprise Institute Iran Tracker, May 23, 2011, http://www.irantracker.org/roundup/iran-news-round-may-23-2011.
  26. Abbas Milani, “Is Ahmadinejad Islamic Enough for Iran?” Foreign Policy, April 29, 2011, http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/04/29/is_ahmadinejad_islamic_enough_for_iran; “Iran Tracker,” American Enterprise Institute, May 31, 2011, http://www.irantracker .org/roundup/iran-news-round-may-31-2011; Iran Press News, May 7, 2011, http://www.iranpressnews.com/source/097890.htm; and Farideh Farhi, “Iran’s Deepening Internal Battle,” Iran Primer, http://iranprimer.usip.org/blog/2011/jun/06/iran%E2 €™s-deepening-internal-battle.
  27. Ali Akbar Dareini and Brian Murphy, “Hard-line Forces Seek Payback in Next Election,” Washington Times, August 17, 2011, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/aug/17/hard-line-forces-seek-payback-in-next-election/; “Guardian Council Pledges to Prevent Infiltration of Outsiders,” Tehran Times, July 14, 2011, http://old.tehrantimes.com/index_View.asp?code=244153; and Ramin Mostafavi and Robin Pomeroy, “Khamenei Warns of Security Risk for Iran Elections,” Reuters, August 31, 2011, http://mobile.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE77U13N20110831?irpc=932.
  28. “Principlists, Reformists Will Seriously Compete in Next Election,” Mehr (Tehran), July 27, 2011, http://www.mehrnews.com/en/newsdetail.aspx?NewsID=1369409; American Enterprise Institute Iran Tracker, May 26, 2011, http://www.irantracker.org/roundup/iran-news-round-may-26-2011; Muhammad Sahimi, “New Group Roils Regime,” PBS Frontline Tehran Bureau, August 19, 2011, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/ tehranbureau/2011/08/new-group-roils-regime-mousavi-health-rumors-a-watermelon-conspiracy.html; Naghmeh Sohrabi, “The Power Struggle in Iran: A Centrist Comeback?” Crown Center for Middle East Studies Middle East Brief 53, July 2011, http://www .brandeis.edu/crown/publications/meb/meb53.html; and Tehran Times, August 29, 2011, http://tehrantimes.com/index.php/politics/2065-majlis-minority-faction-could-spearhead-reformists-campaign-.
  29. American Enterprise Institute Iran Tracker, August 17, 2011, http://www.irantracker.org/ roundup/iran-news-round-august-17-2011.
  30. “Persian Press Review,” Tehran Times, June 8, 2011, http://old.tehrantimes.com/index_ View.asp?code$2069; Choksy, “Ahmadinejad’s Nationalist Attack”; “Persian Press Review,” Tehran Times, July 18, 2011, http://old.tehrantimes.com/index_View.asp? code$4234.