When the Iranian Parliament decided to impeach President Ahmadinejad for misuse of treasury funds (nearly bankrupting the country to do his give-aways to the rural poor) eleven months ago, the Ayatollah Khamenei intervened to keep Ahmadinejad in his office. One little misstep in dealing with Khamenei, however, resulting in almost two dozen of Ahmadinejad’s aides, including his chief of staff Esfandia Rahim Mashaei, being arrested for witchcraft and black magic in May. One hundred lawmakers signed a second impeachment petition against Ahmadinejad in June with the same results as before. In June, they attempted to impeach Energy Minister Majid Namjou, failing by just one vote. Act Five of this little three-way power play came on Sunday when the Iranian Parliament took the first steps to impeach the Economy Minister Shamseddin Hosseini and Namjou.
Twenty-eight parliamentarians signed the impeachment petition for Hosseini primarily for the government’s handling of a $2.6 billion bank fraud case, and 51 signed for the impeachment of Namjou on charges of “weak performance” and failure to pay contractors power plants. The failure to get the new nuclear power plant operational on schedule was not mentioned in the impeachment. Namjou supervises electricity and water, but not the oil industry.
The parliament is even further to the right than Ahmadinejad and members have accused the President of being in league with a “deviant current” seeking to reduce the power of the Ayatollah. Khamenei, however, seems content to keep a weakened and increasingly isolated Ahmadinejad in office, at least until the next elections in two years. Ahmadinejad’s political base is the rural poor, who were benefitting from his generosity until the Parliament pulled the plug on many of his welfare programs. Their support made the violent repression of protests in 2009 possible. The protest movement has gone even deeper underground since Ahmadinejad started randomly arresting its leaders because of the Arab Spring. The leaders hadn’t actually done anything new, Ahmadinejad was just afraid of the repercussions of Tunisia and Egypt.
The next time Mahmoud Ahmadinejad starts ranting and raving in front of an international audience, perhaps we might take a moment for compassion, and remember that we are looking at a very small man on a very tight leash with a very short shelf life.