Iran’s parliament grilled President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Wednesday on the ailing Iranian economy and charges of ignoring orders from Islamic clerical leaders.
It was the first time an Iranian president faced parliamentary questioning and may be a spark of hope for Israel and the West that internal dissension will weaken or even topple Ahmadinejad’s race for a nuclear weapon. He has insisted that Iran’s nuclear development is for peaceful purposes.
Regardless of his motives, the massive spending on nuclear development and advanced weapons severely drained the oil-rich economy even before Western sanctions sent the local rial currency into a tailspin since December.
Ahmadinejad was defiant during the questioning by legislators, who have watched him become more popular among the public but in opposition to Islamic clergy, whose leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is superior to Ahmadinejad.
One specific question concerned Ahmadinejad’s refusal to restore the former intelligence minister to his position, as order by Khamenei.
The parliament also questioned Ahmadinejad about price hikes and cuts in subsidies, apparently to help finance his military ambitions.
One worrisome sign for Ahmadinejad is the recent arrests of several of his political supporters. His answers to the parliament were not warmly received, especially when he tried out his jokes on the legislature, an effort that was termed “insulting” by one parliament member.
One legislator went so far as to say that Ahmadinejad’s performance could lead to his being impeached.