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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Analysis: Presidential Skeptics in Iran

Council on Foreign Relations

January 22, 2007
Prepared by: Lionel Beehner

While most Middle East analysts have focused on the region’s Sunni-Shiite divide, the main Shiite champion, Iran, is undergoing internal rifts of its own. There are fresh reports of fissures (NYT) among the conservative ruling elite, with growing signs that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran’s outspoken president, has lost the confidence of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The alleged falling out has been triggered by growing discontent among Iranians with the president’s anti-West harangues but also by outside pressure put on Iran in response to its drive to enrich uranium. Last December, the UN Security Council slapped limited sanctions against Tehran. European banks have severed ties with their Iranian counterparts, responding to pressure from Washington. While prices soar and the stock market slumps, Iranians grow ever frustrated (AP) with their president, a populist who promised to end poverty.

Candidates on Ahmadinejad’s ticket fared poorly in recent provincial elections. More recently, 150 parliamentary members signed a letter criticizing him for failing to submit a budget on time and for spending too much time abroad. The latest slap in the face came when a widely read hard-line newspaper owned by the Supreme Leader demanded that the president remove himself (Economist) from nuclear negotiations. Indeed, rumors of Ahmadinejad’s ouster are widespread in Tehran.

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Copyright 2007 by the Council on Foreign Relations. This material is republished on with specific permission from the Reprint and republication queries for this article should be directed to

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