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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Ahmadinejad's Quandary

The Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, dismissed two key cabinet ministers on Sunday in the latest fallout of a bitter dispute among conservatives that has exposed Mr. Ahmadinejad’s political vulnerability in the wake of last month’s disputed presidential election.

Mr. Ahmadinejad sacked the intelligence minister, Gholam-Hussein Mohseni-Ejei, and the Islamic culture and guidance minister, Muhammad-Hassan Saffar-Harandi. Both men had walked out of a cabinet meeting last week in protest of Mr. Ahmadinejad’s promotion of a former culture minister, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, who drew fierce criticism last year over comments that were friendly to Israel. He withdrew on Friday, days after the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, ordered his removal.

There were also reports late Sunday that two more ministers might also be sacked.

The dismissals seemed largely symbolic, with only a week left before Mr. Ahmadinejad is inaugurated and must submit a new cabinet to the Parliament. Analysts say Mr. Ahmadinejad is trying to show political confidence in the wake of the June 12 election, which opposition supporters claim was rigged his favor in a dispute that threw the country into crisis. But as reformist factions have rallied against Mr. Ahmadinejad, his own rivals among conservatives have appear to smell blood in the water, and have pressed him hard over the promotion of Mr. Mashaei.

Mr. Ahmadinejad is now in something of a quandary: he has dismissed more than half his cabinet, which means under Iranian law that he must obtain a vote of confidence from the Parliament. There may not be time for that, but it is possible his political enemies could use the issue against him.

Conservatives were especially angry that Mr. Ahmadinejad ignored the order from Ayatollah Khamenei to drop Mr. Mashaei. After Mr. Mashaei withdrew Friday, the president named him chief of staff, in a move that is bound to stir more anger among hard-liners.

link: Iranian President Fires Cabinet Ministers -


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