For all his bluster, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has never held the kind of authority over Iran’s nuclear program he would like. That responsibility has remained squarely in the hands of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The Financial Times reports that a bitter power struggle is developing between the two men—and Ahmadinejad appears to be losing.Rumblings from Tehran suggest the Ayatollah is open to a compromise with the West, much to Ahmadinejad’s dismay:
Ali Akbar Javanfekr, one of the president’s closest allies and his unofficial spokesman, on Monday criticised Iran’s current approach to the nuclear talks.Previously, Iran’s negotiators had simply defied the UN’s resolutions, Mr Javanfekr said. Now chief negotiator Saeed Jalili posed for a photo with Lady Ashton, EU foreign policy chief, a performance, Mr Javanfekr implied, designed to send positive signals to Iran’s markets eager for sanctions to be eased.Mr Jalili is acting on direct orders from the supreme leader, and Tehran has been rife with speculation that he is authorised to negotiate some compromise that would also win Iran an easing of international sanctions.
This schism at the top of Iranian politics has not come about by accident. American sanctions are suffocating the Iranian economy: Iran’s currency has depreciated considerably, growth is weak, and inflation is skyrocketing. Official figures put inflation at 21.8 percent, although many economists believe the actual number could be twice as high. And further pain could be imminent—in addition to U.S. sanctions, the European Union’s oil embargo is due to take effect in July.Iran is scheduled to meet with the major world powers in Baghdad next week. Via Meadia has long supported the use of sanctions as a way to force Tehran to abandon its nuclear ambitions, while acknowledging the need for military action should the diplomatic track fail. Iran has negotiated a humiliating compromise before (in accepting a ceasefire to end the Iran-Iraq War); it may be willing to do so again.