In the Arena

Ahmadinejad the Moderate?

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The usually excellent David Sanger has a very frustrating piece of analysis in the NY Times today. He reports that a public debate has erupted in Iran over whether to accept the west’s nuclear non-proliferation offer:

For days now, Iran’s leadership has been fighting over whether to take that deal, with political opponents of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad all but declaring that he is being duped.

Among them is the speaker of Parliament, Ali Larijani, who is Iran’s former nuclear negotiator. On Saturday, he was widely quoted in the Iranian press as saying that the West was trying to deceive Iran and might never return its enriched uranium.

This is curious on several grounds. For one thing, Sanger presents no evidence that Ahmadinejad actually favors the deal. For another, Ahmadinejad has limited, if any, say over the nuclear program. It’s also curious because Speaker Larijani is known to be close to the Supreme Leader, who does have control over the nuclear program. Does that mean the Supreme Leader also opposes the deal? And where are the leaders of the Revolutionary Guards Corps, who may actually run the country, and are perceived to be close to Ahmadinejad?

If you’re having difficulty picking your way through the paragraph above, join the club: we really still have only a vague notion of how Iran is governed. This public dispute–if it really is a dispute and not a smokescreen–only adds to that confusion.