- By Carolyn O'HaraCarolyn O'Hara is a senior editor at Foreign Policy.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad can’t get a break at home. His newly approved interior minister, Ali Kordan, has been in office for just over a week, and a fake diploma scandal has only gained steam, complete with demands that the minister resign.
When there was a debate in parliament earlier this month over Kordan’s qualifications for the post — he’s previously served as Iran’s deputy oil minister and in the Revolutionary Guards — Ahmadinejad had to go so far as to announce that Ayatollah Khamenei personally supported him, a rare (and extreme) strategy. Key to the issue were damning accusations about Kordan’s honesty, with MPs claiming that Kordan lied about receiving an Oxford University law degree. So, Kordan produced his “diploma” (at right) and, with Khamenei’s critical backing, sailed to approval.
Problem is, Oxford has now said the diploma is a fantasy. Have a look at the document Kordan produced: He must have made quite the impression at the university, seeing as how they saw fit to claim that his “research in the domain of comparative law… has opened a new chapter, not only in our university, but to our knowledge in this country.” (Go ahead and ignore the misspellings and punctuation errors.)
When the the obviously faked diploma hit the Web, it caused a popular firestorm in Iran, with calls for Kordan to step down immediately if he can’t produce the real thing. The Iranian Web site that first revealed the bogus document has now been blocked inside the country. Some analysts even think Ahmadinejad may have set Kordan up to embarrass his likely rival in the next presidential race, Ali Larijani. Kordan is a former aide to Larijani, who is also speaker of the parliament and looking slightly worse for the wear as the controversy continues. Stay tuned.