Sharmine Narwani writes:
A public spat between Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the country’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made the international headlines last week. Politics is rarely ever a harmonious business in any country, so why the brouhaha over this particular stand-off?
To be sure, the disagreement itself was an unusual occurrence. Khamenei’s very public reinstatement of Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi – citing Maslehat or the “greater good of the nation”, no less – shortly after Ahmadinejad removed him, could only be viewed as a tough dressing down. And then Ahmadinejad unexpectedly raised the stakes further by boycotting cabinet meetings for eleven days.
The whole point of a Supreme Leader – or Velayat-e-Faghih – as conceived by the Islamic Revolution’s founders, is that he is the ultimate arbiter over both state and religious affairs.
Ahmadinejad’s defiant snit was a direct challenge to the authority of the Supreme Leader. It served to catapult the affair into the political stratosphere, and he was eventually forced to back down.
But there’s more to this. Tehran sits at the epicentre of a geopolitical struggle between two battling regional worldviews. One “bloc” is comfortable with the existing US and Israeli hegemony in the Middle East and consists of many of the autocratic leaders now being swept away in the Arab Spring. The other is the Iran-led “Resistance Bloc” that seeks to end this foreign hegemony and embrace regional and national self-determination.