There seems to be a major political clash developing in Iran. The
religious leadership seems to want to avoid an outright clash with the UN/U.S.
over the nuclear issue, and appears to prefer not having nukes. Apparently,
they believe having nukes makes them more vulnerable to attack than not having
them. This is not as unreasonable as it may seem at first – after all, they'll
never be able to have enough nukes to deter the US, and so their nuclear
"threat" will have little impact on American policy. Worse, even if they have
just one or two nukes, it will be enough to seriously threaten Israel, which
they believe would have no compunctions in taking preemptive action.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, on the other hand, appears to ignore this calculus. He
keeps saying the country has a right to do anything it wants in the nuclear
field. This is part of the growing power struggle between the more radical
Ahmadinejad and the more conservative clergy. The religious leadership has
already several times told Ahmadinejad that the country's nuclear program is
their responsibility, not his. That's because the powers of the Iranian
president are restricted to domestic issues, and do not cover the armed forces
or foreign policy. Ahmadinejad does have a lot of support among the rural
peasantry and national militia. But in a clash with the clerics he'll almost
certainly lose, mainly because the religious conservatives and the social
liberals in the country would unite behind the mullahs.