Iran's Parliament May Reject Cabinet Choices

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has announced his list of proposed new cabinet members. Some of his choices are expected to face resistance from parliament, which has to vote on the ministers. Iranian-American writer Hooman Majd talks with Steve Inskeep about Ahmadinejad's cabinet choices.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Both Pakistan and Afghanistan border a country that's seen a summer of turmoil. Protestors continue denouncing Iran's disputed presidential election. They have not stopped President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad from starting a second term after claiming an official victory after an election where some areas enjoyed voter turnout of greater than 100 percent. Now he's chosen cabinet ministers to help him govern. Iranian-American writer Hooman Majd is following that news. He's with us once again.

Welcome back to the program.

Mr. HOOMAN MAJD: Good morning, Steve. Thank you.

INSKEEP: I'm just looking at an Associated Press dispatch out of Tehran, which begins by saying that Ahmadinejad submitted a new cabinet, quote, "purged of critics and packed with loyalists and little known figures." Anything surprise you here?

Mr. MAJD: No, I think that was - that was going to happen. He definitely wanted to get rid of anybody who had criticized him in anyway, certainly either before the election but certainly after the election. And he's done that. I mean, I think his cabinet, though, is less important today that it would have been a year ago. I think there's some far more interesting news in terms of how he's going to be able to govern and how he's going to have control over the government or the center of power in Iran.

INSKEEP: What's that news?

Mr. MAJD: Well, basically be that Sadeq Larijani was named by the supreme leader as chief of the judiciary.

INSKEEP: Well, let's - let's remember Larijani. He is one of two brothers who are both very powerful men in Iran, right?

Mr. MAJD: Correct, three brothers…

INSKEEP: Three brothers.

Mr. MAJD: …yes, two of which are very powerful. One who is a speaker of parliament who is most definitely a foe of Ahmadinejad and has shown his annoyance at Ahmadinejad many, many times, was his rival for the conservative, one of the conservatives who ran against him in 2005 and lost; resigned in his post as chief nuclear negotiator because he disagreed with Ahmadinejad essentially. He is now the speaker of parliament. His brother, who's an absolute loyalist - Khamenei loyalist, supreme leader loyalist, was not only named as chief justice, basically, he also appointed the man who Ahmadinejad fired as the intelligence minister, as the top prosecutor.

INSKEEP: Hmm.

Mr. MAJD: So he has - in the judiciary he has basically people who do not agree with him. And the reason he fired the former intelligence minister, who is now Larijani's deputy at justice, the reason he fired him was because that intelligence minister disagreed with Ahmadinejad on a number of issues - one of which included the fact that this unrest in Iran was in fact a velvet revolution plot by the United States.

INSKEEP: Let me make sure I understand what's happening here, because it's possible you get lost in the names.

Mr. MAJD: Sure, yeah.

INSKEEP: You've got some very powerful brothers here who don't like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. They're not exactly liberals either. They're not people that Westerners would agree on a lot of their positions.

Mr. MAJD: Oh, not at all, yes.

INSKEEP: But you're saying that it's now the conservatives who seem to be getting more commanding heights and more positions of power from which they can turn their fire on Ahmadinejad if they choose.

Mr. MAJD: If they chose, absolutely. There's no question about that. You have loyalists - Khamenei loyalists, people who are loyal to the supreme leader rather than Ahmadinejad, loyal to the Ahmadinejad - in these positions of power. He has a new minister of intelligence, which obviously he gets to pick, who is also, actually, interestingly enough, more of a Khamenei loyalist than anything else.

INSKEEP: So the supreme leader seems to be strengthening his position as well. That's a guy who's worried whether he's been shaken in recent months.

Mr. MAJD: I would say so, absolutely. I mean, these people are all arch-conservatives. There's no question about that. They're not liberal. They're not reformists. But they are - but they are not Ahmadinejad loyalists, which is an important factor. I mean one of the things about Larijani's swearing in as chief of the judiciary, one of the interesting things was that Ayatollah Rafsanjani went to that ceremony - and he has boycotted anything to do with Ahmadinejad whatsoever. Clearly it was an indication this was not Ahmadinejad's choice. This was nothing to do with Ahmadinejad. And Ahmadinejad was there at the same ceremony, but neither he stayed for Rafsanjani's speech nor did Rafsanjani stay for Ahmadinejad's speech.

INSKEEP: So we've get to stop there. But Hooman, it's good talking with you.

Mr. MAJD: Good talking to you too, Steve.

INSKEEP: Hooman Majd, author of "The Ayatollah Begs to Differ," talking about conservatives getting more power in Iran, but conservatives opposed to Iran's president in some ways.

You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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