Ahmadinejad Out Of Favor With The Mullahs?

Dodd Harris has already noted the more bizarre aspects of the power struggle between Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khameni, but yesterday that power struggle seemed to turn more serious as it entered the mosques:

The unprecedented power struggle between the two most powerful leaders in Iran deepened Friday, spilling out into Tehran’s public prayers where the mullah leading the service indirectly criticized President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad while the crowd chanted “Death to opponents of the supreme leader!”

The split started about two weeks ago after the president tried to dismiss the head of the intelligence ministry, the powerful government branch that exerts widespread control over domestic life. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader, ordered that the minister, Heydar Moslehi, keep the post.

Mr. Ahmadinejad then stayed home for 11 days, according to reports from Iran, engaging in a visible fit of pique that threatened to undermine the staunch alliance the two had forged since Mr. Ahmadinejad was first elected president in 2005.

The spat dragged into the open several factional fights, analysts said, particularly the efforts by Mr. Ahmadinejad’s conservative opponents to prevent his faction from dominating the parliamentary elections next March and even the presidential vote in 2013.

Even before the chants at Friday Prayer, a signature event since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, important conservative factions had pronounced their support for the supreme leader, including the government’s primary enforcers, the Revolutionary Guards. Ayatollah Khamenei’s infallibility was the subject of Friday Prayer in at least half a dozen large cities besides Tehran, according to media reports.

“It is quite astounding in a way where on a daily basis people are coming out and saying that Khamenei has the constitutional right and the religious right to do what he wants to do,” said Farideh Farhi, an Iran expert at the University of Hawaii. “Ahmadinejad has effectively lost the support of the base. If you do not have the support of Khamenei, you are nobody.”

Under Iranian law, the president has the right to hire and fire cabinet ministers, Iran experts said. But the supreme leader, as the title suggests, is the nation’s ultimate authority.

Whether this will lead to Ahmadinejad’s downfall is hard to tell, of course, but it’s worth noting that this is yet further evidence against those who point to him as the sole voice of the Islamic Republic.


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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Southern Hoosier says:

    Muslims will soon be killing more Muslims. Sweet!

    Islam is peace.

  2. I’d argue that the President of Iran is essentially a figurehead and has no real power other than what the Supreme Leader deigns to let him exercise. I think what happened here is that Ahmadinejad has gotten a bit full of himself and has started to imagine he’s a real head of state. The real power in Iran is now making it clear who’s in charge.

  3. Muslims will soon be killing more Muslims. Sweet!

    Islam is peace.

    Yes, because we never see power struggles in non-Islamic countries.

  4. Southern Hoosier says:

    Other countries aren’t trying to kill us the way Muslims are.

  5. Gazzali says:

    Islam is definitely tracks a way for peaceful living. Power struggles emanates when ego gets in a way. The quran has everything laid there for us to pick up for mankind. When ego mixed wth greed then we are endangering human spieces. We are one and we are created by God the Most Glory.


  6. Southern Hoosier says:

    Gazzali says: Sunday, May 8, 2011 at 05:24
    When ego mixed with greed then we are endangering human species.

    So you are saying that terrorist attacks by Muslims have nothing to do with the Koran and only occur “When ego mixed with greed?”

  7. matt says:

    So you are saying that terrorist attacks by Christians have nothing to do with the Bible and only occur “When ego mixed with greed?”

  8. Southern Hoosier says:

    matt says:
    Sunday, May 8, 2011 at 18:23

    So you are saying that terrorist attacks by Christians have nothing to do with the Bible and only occur “When ego mixed with greed?”

    Not me.
    Islam is peace