Yesterday, Ali Larijani was elected speaker of the Iranian parliament. In his new perch, the country’s former chief nuclear negotiator is bound to cause grief for his old rival, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The vote on Wednesday was not even close: Larijani walked away with all but 31 of the 263 votes cast as he defeated the incumbent, Gholam Ali Haddad Adel. The margin of victory signals that the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, supported Larijani, and with the backing of the clerics, the new speaker will be able to remake the political landscape in Tehran. So expect a period of turbulence in the internal workings of the Islamic Republic. There is already widespread discontent with Ahmadinejad’s policies–especially the economic ones–and Larijani now has the means to stir up trouble. The country, at this moment, has two strong operators pitted against each other in the run up to next June’s presidential elections.
What does this mean for us? The new speaker is by far the more pragmatic of the pair. His emergence, however, is not good for the international community. Larijani’s election is bound to result in added pressure on Washington–coming from Russia, China, and Europe, not to mention the “nonaligned” states–to begin new diplomatic initiatives to see if the Iranians will stop their enrichment of uranium. Yet Larijani is just as hardline as Ahmadinejad when it comes to this issue (just moments after his swearing in, he threatened to cut back Tehran’s cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency).
Global leaders cannot agree that Iran poses a threat even when its president continually speaks about worldwide conflagration and the destruction of the “stinking corpse” that is Israel. There will certainly be even less unity now that it appears that Khamenei has endorsed a more moderate-sounding politician. Iran is still the threat today that it was in the beginning of this week. The only thing that is different is that at this time, with a more capable leader asserting himself, the country will be better able to achieve dangerous goals.