It's the great imponderable, the massive potential game-changer in the Middle East: an internal shift in Iran, either toward reform or even more draconian repression. The clues, alas, are mixed. The NYT reports today on a cratering economy, but warns that this might empower the religious nutjobs. The Guardian offers a more hopeful piece of political news, the reemergence of Rafsanjani, which is greeted with relief from the Newshoggers, who say it underscores
the often-overlooked fact that the "Hitleresque dictator" President Ahmadinejad is term limited by the Iranian constitution. By 2014 at the latest he will no longer be in power. Indeed, with recent developments it is becoming more likely that he won't be in office by the end of 2008.
Kevin Sullivan differs:
This is also seen as a blow for Ahmadinejad. Far from it. As I've also argued in the past, Ahmadinejad is perhaps the most politically savvy president ever witnessed in post-Revolution Iran. While insider operatives like Rafsanjani consolidate power at the top, Ahmadinejad knows how to garner support at the grassroots.
...I’ve made the case before, and I’ll restate it here - a weaker Supreme Leader could lead to a stronger presidential executive. The constitution states that Ahmadinejad is the second most powerful figure in the country. If Khamenei is weakened (or even removed), it’ll leave a power vacuum. Ahmadinejad is tied to the conservative elements that still influence the Assembly. He is a former member of the Revolutionary Guard, with close ties to their infrastructure. And again, unlike Rafsanjani, he knows how to build genuinely popular support.
There is a critical mass of rumors in DC that Cheney and Bush are planning a massive military strike on Iran within a few months. That may be part of the reason the Brits are in such a rush to get out of the South of Iraq. It may well be, given the president's belief in his unchecked power to do as he wills in foreign policy, that our best bet against a third war is within Iran, not America.
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