IN THE Byzantine corridors of Iranian power, a tussle between Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and its supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is becoming steadily more bitter. The latest bout began in April when Mr Ahmadinejad discovered that Heidar Moslehi, the minister of intelligence, was bugging the offices of Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, his own chief of staff and a close ally. Mr Ahmadinejad fired Mr Moslehi. But Mr Khamenei, who dislikes Mr Mashaei, fast reinstated him.
In a huff, Mr Ahmadinejad refused to attend cabinet meetings, cancelled a visit to Qom, Iran’s holiest city, and avoided public appearances for more than a week. He eventually came out of his sulk after nearly 300 MPs urged him in a letter to respect Mr Khamenei’s decision and to resume his duties. Some hinted that he should be impeached.
The president is unlikely to bow out any time soon. He still has enough allies in the majlis, Iran’s parliament, who can generally bully his opponents into line. He enjoys a fair bit of support in rural areas. Mid-ranking members of the Revolutionary Guard and the baseej, a bunch of thuggish volunteer militiamen, still largely back him and some high-ranking clerics in Qom are behind him. There is no constellation aligned against him yet.