Did Back Channel Contacts With The West Set In Motion The Iranian Power Struggle?

iran ayatollah

David Ignatius has a provocative piece today, saying that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s chief of staff may have been trying to establish a back channel to the West over the last few months.  And that in so doing, he (and President Ahmadinejad) incurred the wrath of Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Which in turn led to the weirdness that we reported on earlier today

Here’s Ignatius:

When there’s political upheaval in Tehran, it’s often interwoven with the explosive question of possible outreach to the United States. And that may be the case with a recent feud between Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

The key figure in this dispute is Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaei, Ahmadinejad’s former chief of staff and said to be his choice as successor in the next Iranian presidential elections, scheduled for 2013. In recent months, Mashaei is said to have initiated a series of contacts attempting to open a dialogue with the United States.

This new outreach follows Ahmadinejad’s efforts in 2009 to explore a possible nuclear deal with the West, which were rebuffed by Khamenei. Paradoxically, the hard-line president, notorious for his anti-Israel rhetoric, would also like to take credit for a deal that eases Iran’s isolation and opens the way for greater contact and cooperation with the West.

Read the whole thing.