Iran’s president, under attack by reformists after his disputed election victory last month, on Tuesday openly defied his most powerful backer, refusing an order by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to dump a newly chosen vice president who is despised by hard-liners for insisting last year that Iranians had no quarrel with the Israeli people.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad finds himself under increasing pressure from Iranian hard-liners who appear eager to reap political rewards after leading a weeks-long crackdown on supporters of opposition figure Mir-Hossein Mousavi, who say vote fraud was responsible for Ahmadinejad’s victory.
The leader of a hard-line scholars group linked to the Basiji militia said his organization would propose its own “desired Cabinet lineup” to the president.
“Our organization intends to become the government’s think tank,” said Lotfali Bakh- tiari, leader of the group, in an interview published by Khabar newspaper. “We want to introduce our elite into the government to serve the country. No obstacle is on our way, even the current climate of mistrust.”
Ahmadinejad surprised many observers by defending the vice president, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, an in-law, in the face of a torrent of criticism from his hard-line allies.
News agencies confirmed Tuesday that Khamenei sent a letter to Ahmadinejad on Monday asking for the removal of Mashaei. [continued…]
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Iran Wednesday that the United States would extend a “defense umbrella” over its allies in the Persian Gulf if the Islamic Republic obtains a nuclear weapons capability.
Appearing on a Thai TV program, Clinton said the U.S. would also take steps to “upgrade the defense” of America’s Gulf allies in such an event, a reference to stepped-up military aid to those countries.
Clinton’s reference to a U.S. “defense umbrella” over the Persian Gulf represented a potentially significant evolution in America’s global defense posture. Washington already explicitly maintains a “nuclear umbrella” over Asian allies like Japan and South Korea, but seldom, if ever, has any senior U.S. official publicly discussed the concept in relation to the Gulf. [continued…]