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Ahmadinejad Retaliates

In the continuing and increasingly-public struggle between Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the president has fired three cabinet ministers against the wishes and without the consultation of Khamenei and the ruling clerics. This comes a few weeks after the Ayatollah both fired Ahmadinejad's chief of staff and reinstated the previously-fired minister of intelligence, and one week after arresting Ahmadinejad loyalists and accusing them of witchcraft. The strife between the clerics and the president's supporters grows greater, with even Ahmadinejad's spiritual mentor breaking with the president and demanding he acquiesce to the Supreme Leader, and joining others in declaring that Ahmadinejad is but a puppet of his previous chief of staff, and son-in-law, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei. Religious conservatives in the country despise Mashaei because he often speaks favorably of pre-Islamic Persia, has said that Iran's war is with the government of Israel and not the people of Israel, and has no loyalty to or dependence on the ruling clerics.

The key player at the moment is the elite Revolutionary Guard; whoever they back will come through in this struggle and, while in the past they have propped up Ahmadinejad, many in their ranks are beginning to suggest he start playing nice with the Ayatollah. The growing tension in the Islamic Republic could allow for the opposition to try make another move for more liberties come the next election in 2013. However, after seeing their numbers decimated and scores imprisoned in the aftermath of the 2009 protests and with seemingly no moral support from President Obama during that deadly time, it remains to be seen if the opposition has both heart and muscle to go through such troubles again.
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