Feuds simmer among Iran's top leadership
Dubai, May 1, 2011
Iran's spy chief took his seat at a planned cabinet meeting in Tehran and waited with the other ministers for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The embittered president never showed up.
It was all another bit of political theatre last week amid Iran's current - and deeply complex - power plays between the increasingly confident Intelligence Minister Heidar Moslehi and the suddenly defensive Ahmadinejad, who refuses to accept Moslehi and has boycotted Cabinet sessions despite an order from the country's highest authority.
Political dustups are nothing new to Iran, where parliament bickers regularly and Ahmadinejad and the ruling clerics have traded tense moments.
But few can match this one for its raw nerve and serious stakes, which reach into the highest levels of how Iran is ruled.
In the balance is a host of big-ticket questions:
Ahmadinejad's political stature in his final two years in office, his ability to push back against growing challenges from parliament and other critics, and whether Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is seeking to exert more control.
Ahmadinejad could hardly have picked a more potent adversary than Moslehi, who was restored to the powerful post by Khamenei just hours after resigning on April 17.
The embarrassing slap has invited speculation that Khamenei's once-blanket support for Ahmadinejad could be now fraying by his repeated attempts to push the limits of his powers.