The news that the two leading figures in Iran’s leadership are engaged in a bitter feud may give comfort to some who think as long as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and supreme religious leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei are battling each other, the rest of the world is safe. But the conflict in Tehran is yet another reason why the Islamist regime must not be allowed to obtain nuclear weapons no matter which of the two emerge victorious from the struggle.
The falling out between the ayatollah and the man who was long considered to be his political front man seems to stem as much from a reaction to Ahmadinejad’s flamboyant style and open messianism as the personal struggle for power. Ahmadinejad’s religious extremism is such that it may scare even the ruthless and tyrannical mullahs who have always been the real brokers in Iran since its Islamic revolution. While the supreme leader has a post that is thought to be permanent, presidents have come and gone. But, as the stolen 2009 election that led to riots in Tehran showed, Ahmadinejad has no intention of going anywhere.
Were the Holocaust-denying Ahmadinejad to be forced out, that might be seen as a victory for moderation. But the only real difference on the big issues between him and Khamenei appears to be a function of public relations. The ayatollah is no moderate on either nukes or terrorism.
It’s not clear whether Ahmadinejad has enough support among the Iranian armed forces or security personnel to survive in the long term, but there appears no reason to believe this battle will be short-lived. Until it is resolved, an already dangerous government must be considered even more volatile and liable to rely on foreign diversions to distract its people from the rot at the core of their government. With Iranian troops in Syria to prop up their ally Bashar Assad, and its well-armed terrorist surrogates Hamas and Hezbollah always poised to attack Israel, the notion of a nuclear Iran is one that could destabilize the entire Middle East.
The conflict between these two hate-filled violent religious extremists may set off a series of events that cannot be predicted. Rather than sit back and hope a computer virus, diplomacy or the weak and largely unenforced sanctions put on Iran will alter the situation, the necessity of giving a higher priority to efforts to halt their march towards nuclear weapons is greater than ever. But with the Obama administration showing it is more concerned with pressuring Israel and pulling out of conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan than doing something about Iran, the Iranian power struggle means the potential for big trouble in the coming months has just gotten much greater.