Iran rulers’ move to tighten grip may erode legitimacy

CAIRO, Egypt — More than two months after a disputed presidential election threw Iran’s ruling class into turmoil, the country’s leaders are showing themselves increasingly unwilling to compromise with their critics, a trend analysts say could mean even tougher steps against would-be reformers in the future.

Last week, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad began assembling his Cabinet and was quickly assailed for stacking his administration with hard-line cronies and ignoring more moderate candidates with better qualifications.

The government in recent days also defied international calls for the release of political prisoners by adding two dozen new defendants to a mass trial of opposition figures that has polarized Iran’s elite.

The developments have persuaded many analysts that the country’s current rulers are far more concerned about keeping their grip on power than on smoothing over post-election divisions.

With reformist leaders languishing in jail or under virtual house arrest, Ahmadinejad is now working to keep his allies in crucial government posts, frustrating even his conservative critics and aggravating long-standing turf wars within the clergy, the military, the judiciary and the intelligence apparatus.

“The people in power are not really worried about the overthrow of the regime if they’re squabbling about posts in the Cabinet,” said Ervand Abrahamian, an Iran analyst and …

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