President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with his hand-picked successor, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei;
the June elections are about who holds the chief seat of power in Iran, the state or the clerics.
Photo Credit: Mohammad Hassanzadeh, Fars News Agency; Associated Press
Mr. Ahmadinejad’s support of Mr. Mashaei, his spiritual mentor and the father-in-law of his son, is a particular stick in the eye for the conservatives, as well as a subtle appeal to more progressive Iranians. In messages filled with poetic language, Mr. Mashaei repeatedly propagates the importance of the nation of Iran over that of Islam.
Leading ayatollahs and commanders say that Mr. Ahmadinejad has been “bewitched” by the tall, beardless 52-year old, whom they have called a “Freemason,” a “foreign spy” and a “heretic.” They accuse Mr. Mashaei of plotting to oust the generation of clerics who have ruled Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution and of promoting direct relations with God, instead of through clerical intermediaries. He and his allies, they say, are part of a “deviant” current.
In response to Mr. Ahmadinejad, several opponents have warned about unrest and “sedition” around election time, comparable to the protests and riots after the president’s 2009 re-election, when millions took to the streets to dispute his victory.In this regard Iran is similar to other nations which face internal struggles for power among differing factions. Iran differs in that its power struggles centre on whether the interests of the state override those of political Islam. Ahmadinejad is an astute politician and has read well the mood of the nation, where a large percentage of the population want less restrictions and more freedoms than the clerics will easily give them.
For now, the clerics hold the main reins of power, led by Ayatollah Khamenei, who the article say, "has for now tried to calm the warring factions, repeatedly warning that their infighting is hurting the country’s interests." But the clerics might now find themselves on the wrong side of history, and after more than 30 years of clerical control, Iranians now want something that all humans everywhere want: individual liberty.
You can read the rest of the article at [NYT]