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Khamenei Lets Ahmadinejad off the Hook

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks during the 16th summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in Tehran, August 30, 2012.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks during the 16th summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in Tehran, August 30, 2012.

Spurred by Iran’s supreme leader, Iran’s parliament has backed off plans to bring president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad before the body for questioning about the faltering economy.

"Up to this point, the plan to question the president has been positive because of the sense of responsibility of parliament and the readiness of government officials," said Grand Ayatolla Ali Khamenei, according to the Mehr news agency. "But if this issue goes any further, it will be what the enemies want, and so I ask the honorable representatives not to continue with it."

Soon after Khamenei’s warning, those in parliament who had wanted to question Ahmadinejad withdrew their request.

Avaz Heydarpour, a spokesman for the group of legislators, confirmed that the summons had been withdrawn following Khamenei's request, Mehr reported.

The move was not surprising to Iran watchers.

“It could only become an uglier public spat with little benefit for Khamenei himself,” said Alex Vatanka, a scholar at the Middle East Institute. “It was the supreme leader who set this cycle in motion and now has chosen to stop it as he has already made his point to Ahmadinejad and gotten the president to re-think his tendencies to challenge the supreme powers of Ayatollah Khamenei.”

Bringing Ahmadinejad before the parliament would not have been without precedent. Earlier this year, he was called before the 290-seat body to answer questions about his public feud with Khamenei. This time, the questioning would have been ostensibly about the economy.

Iran’s economy has been facing strong headwinds in the face of Western sanctions. Its currency, the rial, has lost as much as 80 percent of its value over the past year, and the official inflation rate is 25 percent. Furthermore, sanctions have severely restricted the country’s ability to sell oil on the world market and limited its access to the international banking system.

The sanctions have been imposed over Iran’s refusal to stop its uranium-enrichment program. Iran claims the uranium is for nuclear energy, while the U.S. and its allies say Iran is striving to build nuclear weapons.

During a press conference in October, Ahmadinejad blamed “psychological pressures” linked to Western sanctions for Iran’s economic woes and criticized other politicians who have said the collapse of the currency has been worsened by his economic policies.

Ahmadinejad directly named parliament speaker Ali Larijani, who said 80 percent of Iran’s economic problems are a result of government mismanagement and only 20 percent because of sanctions.

Larijani is among the possible candidates for next June's presidential elections that will select Ahmadinejad's successor.

Some information from this report came from Reuters