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Dispatch: Intersection of Iranian Domestic and Foreign Policies

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Analyst Kamran Bokhari discusses the firing of Iran's foreign minister and how the move illustrates the Iranian president's ability to steer through domestic opposition and push his foreign policy agenda.

Editor’s Note: Transcripts are generated using speech-recognition technology. Therefore, STRATFOR cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad fired his foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, at a time when Iran is engaged with intense nuclear negotiations. The firing of the foreign minister is evidence of a simmering internal power struggle that has the ability to impact the Islamic republic's negotiations with the West.

Mottaki was actually abroad in Senegal when he was fired by the president, and that's very significant in that it tells us that not only is this the result of an internal power struggle, but it's also a very abrupt measure. And we know that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been engaged in trying to bypass the foreign ministry by appointing key people in advisory positions and making use of the National Security Council to make foreign policy. Ahmadinejad faces opposition from across the entire political establishment in Tehran. There are people in various institutions within various factions that support the president, and then there are people in those same institutions and same factions that oppose the president. This makes the president's job of policymaking and governance very difficult. It constrains him far beyond what a normal Iranian president would face from the byzantine structure that is the Islamic republic. So therefore, Ahmadinejad has had to navigate through this complex swamp in a very skillful way to not only maintain power, but also to push ahead his policy agenda.

That the firing of the foreign minister comes within days of the nuclear talks between the West and Iran suggests that there is some significant tension within the establishment. We know that over the past year, the supreme leader and Ahmadinejad have been at odds over the proposed uranium swapping deal that the West has been offering Iran. Ahmadinejad accepted it in the talks that were held over a year ago last October in 2009. Shortly thereafter, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei came out and rejected it very publicly. So if we go by that and we look at the way the foreign minister has been removed, it appears as though Ahmadinejad was facing a lot of opposition to any negotiation that he was conducting with the West from certain very powerful quarters, and in order to bypass those quarters, he went ahead and removed the foreign minister. If you look at the person who has replaced him, he is, or at least was until today, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran and someone who has worked closely with the president in recent years.

Today's move to oust a foreign minister who has been in his Cabinet since day one speaks volumes about how Ahmadinejad is willing to take risks to push his agenda and to be able to navigate and maintain his position as president and head of state. Will he be successful? It's too early to say. The game is not over, in fact, I think the game has just begun.

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