Larijani and Ahmadinejad exchange blows

Article sources: Mellatonline and ISNAALi Larijani and Mahmood Ahmadinejad

Article date: 23 July 2011

On Friday Ali Larijani, Speaker of the Majlis (Iran’s legislature), delivered a scathing criticism of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s policies, focusing on the economy, role of the clergy in politics and relations with the United States of America.

Regarding the economy, Larijani attacked the implementation of Yaraneha, the subsidies targeting plan, by the Ahmadinejad administration:

“Handing out money among the people will not solve the unemployment problem…Majlis never thought that the Yaraneha bill would be implemented in such a fashion and that cash payments would be distributed in this manner…Industry and agriculture did not receive any support during the implementation of Yaraneha, leading to problems with production and an increase in the inflation rate.”

On the question of the clergy’s role in politics, Larijani stated that politicians should be focused on the main points of Islam:

“Islamic culture and sympathy with the [Shiite] clergy leads to greater knowledge among the people. We must continue to follow the path of religious seminaries, the Supreme Leader and the clergy. However every now and then certain winds blow in the country which, through enlightening the people, must be confronted. These days certain individuals are raising a form of Sufism which they must be made aware leads nowhere…These false words must not be accepted, Islamic ideology comes solely from the deep thoughts of the clergy.”

Addressing relations with the US, Larijani noted that:

“Labeling negotiations with the US as a taboo and belittling those who resist the arrogant policies of that country is wrong. In some governments these issues [negotiations with the US] were pursued but no success was achieved. Iran’s conflict with the US is not a tactical one, the Iranian nation resisted the US’ invasions in the region, and this resistance was the cause of the awakening of the nations of the region [referring to the Arab Spring, which the IRI refers to as the “Islamic Awakening].”

He then rhetorically asked: “What will you gain from breaking the taboo surrounding relations with the US…Why is this strategic position called a “taboo”?”

Following Larijani’s speech, Ahmadinejad reacted by indirectly attacking him on his criticism of the implementation of the Yaraneha plan:

“The constitution has emphasized that opportunity in this country must be distributed equally and that talent must not be wasted. What must someone who has talent but no financial resources do? What crime has he committed to have no resources? Not everyone is born to “khan” and “aqazadeh” [referring to the children of Iran’s economic and political elite]. The majority of our nation is ordinary folk. What is the problem with distributing some our financial resources among these people?”

He continued:

“Actually, the masses of the people who receive small loans are the best bank customers. They are willing to miss a meal in order to pay back their debt. In contrast, the worst bank customers are those who think highly of themselves [referring to the economic and political elite]. If they would repay their debts, our financial institutions would be in much better condition.”

Ahmadinejad then claimed that these are the same economic and political elite who are pressuring his administration:

“Some are disgruntled and lose sleep over the fact that the Yaraneha plan has been implemented in a just manner. They seek every opportunity and excuse to spread poison and create problems in this regard…They think that there must always be a downtrodden class in society in order for them to make their living, when in fact this mode of thinking is perverse and poverty is a result of wrong management and policies.”

 Editor’s note: In one of the most significant exchanges yet between the executive and legislature, on Friday last week Larijani attacked Ahmadinejad on three topics of growing tension between the Principalists and Neo-Principalists (Ahmadinejad and his circle): Economic policy, the role of the clergy in politics and relations with the US.

In response, Ahmadinejad indirectly attacked Larijani and his faction on economic issues and played up the theme of corruption among the economic and political elite of the IRI. While he did not address the role of the clergy in politics and relations with the US at this point, the fact that Larijani has raised them means that they will likely become important in this ongoing conflict in the future.

This exchange highlights an ongoing factional struggle within the dominant Principalist faction, with Ahmadinejad representing a new political line. Tensions will likely continue to rise in the lead-up to the 2012 Majlis elections which may be crucial in showing the future trajectory of the IRI.