Ahmadinejad vs. Khamenei?

Though Iran’s leadership has maintained its verbal assault against Israel for its invasion of Gaza, they have also made sure that their rhetoric does not lead to a violence by Iranian citizens. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei stepped in yesterday to ban hardline students who had volunteered to serve as suicide bombers from traveling to ...

589679_090109_iran5.jpg
589679_090109_iran5.jpg

Though Iran's leadership has maintained its verbal assault against Israel for its invasion of Gaza, they have also made sure that their rhetoric does not lead to a violence by Iranian citizens. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei stepped in yesterday to ban hardline students who had volunteered to serve as suicide bombers from traveling to Israel. Over 70,000 students had apparently signed up to serve, rallied by exhortations from President Ahmadinejad's hardline allies. This has led some to speculate about the existence of a rift between Ahmadinejad and Khamenei.

Not so fast. Ahmadinejad might be reckless, but there is no evidence that he sincerely desired tens of thousands of Iranian suicide bombers to descend on Israel -- a step that would virtually guarantee a war with Israel and the United States.

"[The situation in Gaza] is embarassing to Iran," Carnegie Endowment fellow Karim Sadjadpour told me. "Despite paying lip service to its Palestinian allies, it can really do nothing." Like Khamenei, Ahmadinejad likely encouraged widespread protests in Iran and the exhortations to fight Israel as a symbolic resistance, rather than a serious battle plan.

Though Iran’s leadership has maintained its verbal assault against Israel for its invasion of Gaza, they have also made sure that their rhetoric does not lead to a violence by Iranian citizens. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei stepped in yesterday to ban hardline students who had volunteered to serve as suicide bombers from traveling to Israel. Over 70,000 students had apparently signed up to serve, rallied by exhortations from President Ahmadinejad’s hardline allies. This has led some to speculate about the existence of a rift between Ahmadinejad and Khamenei.

Not so fast. Ahmadinejad might be reckless, but there is no evidence that he sincerely desired tens of thousands of Iranian suicide bombers to descend on Israel — a step that would virtually guarantee a war with Israel and the United States.

“[The situation in Gaza] is embarassing to Iran,” Carnegie Endowment fellow Karim Sadjadpour told me. “Despite paying lip service to its Palestinian allies, it can really do nothing.” Like Khamenei, Ahmadinejad likely encouraged widespread protests in Iran and the exhortations to fight Israel as a symbolic resistance, rather than a serious battle plan.

That is not to say that Ahmadinejad enjoys Khamenei’s unyielding support. The deteriorating economic situation has damaged Ahmadinejad’s domestic popularity, a fact not lost on Khamenei. Sadjadpour characterized the relationship between the two Iranian leaders as a “master-student relationship.”

Ahmadinejad owed much of his success in the 2005 presidential election to Khamenei’s support. Khamenei can quietly swing elections through his influence over the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and the Basij — a volunteer paramilitary corps — or disqualify potential presidential candidates through the Council of Guardians. As the Iranian presidential elections approach, analysts will be looking very carefully for which way this most important Iranian voter is leaning.

BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images

Tag: Iran

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