December 14, 2006

Clerics Posing Threat to Ahmadinejad

From Clerics Posing Threat to Ahmadinejad: Iranian President Ahmadinejad faces a potential setback at the hands of the nation's traditional conservatives in elections Friday for a government oversight body that will one day choose a successor to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Several allies of fundamentalist Ayatollah Mohammed Taghi Mesbah-Yazdi, a spiritual and political adviser to Ahmadinejad, have been blocked by the country's religious establishment from running for the 86-seat Assembly of Experts.

"The old conservatives among the clerics are trying to hold onto their ability to steer the Islamic revolution, and they are not supporting Ahmadinejad's way," said A. William Samii, an Iranian political analyst with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Mehdi Khalaji, a visiting fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said Ayatollah Khamenei sent a clear signal in the run-up to Friday's vote that he wanted to rein in Ahmadinejad's fundamentalist allies, who have pushed an aggressive line on Islamic practice, Israel, and confrontation with the U.S.