Iran's parliament planned to impeach President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad but refrained from doing so following the intervention of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Wall Street Journal reported. Four members of Tehran's parliament launched a petition to hold a debate on Ahmadinejad's impeachment, conservative Iranian newspapers said.
The papers reported Monday that legislators started a move to collect the 74 signatures needed to hold an open debate on the president's impeachment. Forty lawmakers have already signed the motion.
This is the first time in the history of the Islamic Republic that parliament has discussed impeachment of a president. However, the move needs Khamenei's support in order to succeed – and it does not appear to have it at this time.
In a report discussed in parliament Monday, four lawmakers voiced unprecedentedly harsh criticism of Ahmadinejad, accusing him of breaking the law and acting without the approval of the legislature. The Iranian president was charged with “illegally importing gasoline and oil, failing to provide budgetary transparency and withdrawing millions of dollars from Iran's foreign reserve fund without getting parliament's approval,” WSJ reported.
The moves against Ahmadinejad are a manifestation of domestic unrest over his plans to gradually eliminate subsidies for fuel, food and utilities, a move that is expected to drive up inflation. The opposition to Ahmadinejad is described as politically "conservative," while Ahmadinejad himself is an "ultraconservative"– as is Khamenei.
U.S. officials Monday said they are following the political struggle in Tehran and believe that they are caused, in part, by the sanctions imposed on the Iranians by the US, the United Nations and the European Union.
However, observers noted that Ahmadinejad's opponents, too, favor Iran's nuclear weapons program, and that even if Ahmadinejad is toppled, the program is likely to continue.
Parag Khanna, Director of the Global Governance Initiative at the New America Foundation, predicts that “the next Iranian revolution is very close,” in an interview with Globes. Khanna, who was an adviser to U.S. President Barack Obama, said that “there are many underground tremors” in Iran, that will lead to a change in the power structure in the next few years.
Regarding the Islamic Republic's nuclear arms program, Khanna estimated at 50% the chances that the West will be able to check the Iranian program before it reaches the point of no return. He is not sure if this will happen through military or diplomatic means, but says – “I have hunch that we will succeed in stopping them.”