Tehran — Iran's president on Wednesday shunned a Cabinet meeting for the second consecutive time this week, apparently showing his discontent over a recent government appointment by the country's supreme leader.
There is a growing rift between Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has final say in all Iranian state matters.
The confrontation stems from Ahmadinejad's recent dismissal of the intelligence minister, Heidar Moslehi, who was ordered by the president to resign last week. The minister was then promptly reinstated by Khamenei in a public slap to the president.
On Saturday, Khamenei warned in a speech broadcast on state TV that he will intervene in the government's affairs whenever necessary — a rebuke to Ahmadinejad for challenging his all-encompassing authority.
Although Khamenei ordered Moslehi to remain in the Cabinet, the president reportedly didn't give in to the order and failed to officially invite Moslehi to Sunday's session. Surprisingly, Moslehi showed up and Ahmadinejad abstained.
Iranian media reported that Moslehi attended the Cabinet session Wednesday but Ahmadinejad again abstained.
The Ahmadinejad-Khamenei discord could destabilize Iran from within. The country is at odds with the West and under UN sanctions over its controversial nuclear program.
It could also cast a shadow on the remaining two years of Ahmadinejad's presidency.
Ahmadinejad's gamble appears to be aimed at setting up a confidant to become the next president, analysts say. He needs to control the Intelligence Ministry in order to influence the next parliament as well as who becomes the next president, they say.
Khamenei is believed to be intent on helping shape a new political team, absent of Ahmadinejad loyalists, to lead the next government.
Without meaningful political parties in Iran, unpredictable political factions and groups have emerged before elections. Khamenei, analysts say, feels threatened by a single political faction remaining in office for more than eight years.