Throwing Ahmadinejad under the bus

Throwing Ahmadinejad under the bus

A number of Iran experts have begun speculating that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei will have to dump the evidently unpopular Ahmadinejad in order to save himself. The Carnegie Endowment’s Karim Sadjadpour picks up the banner here in an interesting interview with CFR’s indefatigable Bernard Gwertzman:

The supreme leader’s decision to delegate responsibility to the Guardian Council was classic Khamenei in the sense that he doesn’t cede authority–the Guardian Council is essentially under his jurisdiction–but he buys time and deflects accountability. He was calculating that if he could buy time, the scale of these protests would gradually diminish. So far, that hasn’t been the case. He may eventually be faced with a situation of whether to sacrifice President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose "reelection" he announced, or go down himself with the ship.

It’s interesting to note that Ahmadinejad has been strangely quiet of late — a sign of either overconfidence or muzzling from the top. And then there’s this bit of back-pedaling:

Mr. Ahmadinejad released a largely conciliatory recorded statement on state television Thursday, distancing himself from his past criticism of protesters he has compared to angry soccer fans and "dust.” "I only addressed those who made riot, set fires and attacked people,” the statement said. "Every single Iranian is valuable. The government is at everyone’s service. We like everyone.”

It would be incredibly convenient for Khamenei to wash his hands of this mess and blame all the recent excesses on the president. But would it work?

UPDATE: After this speech, it’s going to be hard for Khamenei to walk away from Ahmadinejad. It looks like we’re headed for some real brutality now.