Ali Larijani has essentially been fired by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is not letting Larijani leave the negotiating scene yet.
Despite Larijani’s blurry status, Iran has announced the “joint will” of Ahmadinejad and Khamenei that Iran’s top nuclear negotiator attend talks on Tuesday in Rome with Javier Solana.
Larijani, who has tried to resign on several occasions (one of which after the kidnapping and detainment by the IRGC of fifteen British sailors), reportedly cannot stand working with the reckless Ahmadinejad — though is on very good terms with Khamenei.
But with the firing, which Larijani learned through news reports rather than directly, Ahmadinejad is challenging Khamenei’s authority over Iranian state matters. Ahmadinejad knows that Larijani is an agent of those who actually want to resolve Iran’s nuclear situation in a constructive way while Ahmadinejad benefits from the crisis and tension with the US and Europe.
There has been a lot of movement in recent days on Iran’s nuclear program. Days after Defense Secretary Bob Gates met with Vladimir Putin, Putin is in Tehran meeting with Khamenei. And in the midst of these meetings, Gates states that a new course in Iran’s nuclear plans that might move its nuclear reprocessing requirements into Russia would curtail the need, possibly, for the US to deploy intermediate range missiles is Europe.
There has been fragile but real deal making going on — and it is progress on this front that Larijani wanted to have the government announce — but Ahmadinejad refused.
More on this soap opera later — but the big story here is that Ahmadinejad is challenging Khamenei directly and openly with Ali Larijani’s firing. It will be interesting to see if Khamenei turns the other cheek or further undermines the “Dick Cheney of Iran” Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
— Steve Clemons