"U.S. policy makers long ago accepted that America does not well understand what goes on inside the black box of Iran's power centers...Still, American diplomatic hands and their European colleagues have been tracking signs of a seeming power struggle inside the Iranian leadership between Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other conservatives..Still, as remote and arcane as the Iranian political scene seems to outsiders in the West, it's hard to imagine how U.S. diplomats are sussing out the latest, and increasingly bizarre, string of reports of an intensifying power struggle between Ahmadinejad and Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.The still-sketchy dispatches from Tehran indicate, on one level, a simple internecine power struggle. Ahmadinejad last month tried to fire the Minister of Intelligence, only to have the Supreme Leader overrule the decision and reinstate the minister. After that, Ahmadinejad did not show up for work for eleven days, returning last Sunday. But now come a series of reports about Ahmadinejad's adviser and cabinet chief Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei. The reports say associates of Mashaei have been arrested on charges of sorcery -- and not in the metaphorical sense....Western observers can be forgiven for greeting this bizarre twist with a simple question: What's really going on?According to Washington national security columnist David Ignatius, the allegations may have less to do with sorcery, than Meshaei's recent efforts, apparently on Ahmadinejad's behalf, to open up a secret channel of dialogue with the United States ... This new outreach follows Ahmadinejad's efforts in 2009 to explore a possible nuclear deal with the West, which were rebuffed by Khamenei. Paradoxically, the hard-line president, notorious for his anti-Israel rhetoric, would also like to take credit for a deal that eases Iran's isolation and opens the way for greater contact and cooperation with the West...And according to Ignatius, Mashaei is not the only Iranian official who has reached out to the United States: "Similar signals are said to have come last year from Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, the mayor of Tehran and a rival of Ahmadinejad who is thought to be close to Khamenei," he writes. "But this track apparently didn't lead anywhere."Sadly, it may take a bit of sorcery for the U.S. and Iran to open up a dialogue at this point, as it becomes increasingly apparent that Iranian officials attempting to do so are being thwarted by their own domestic political rivals. And Obama too is not immune from domestic political pressures to harden his position on Iran, as the clock ticks on with no progress in international negotiations over Tehran's nuclear program."
Friday, May 6, 2011
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 7:28 PM