Iranian leaders move to isolate Ahmadinejad from nuclear program

The pessimist in me says this is all for show, a gesture of “moderation” designed to lure the west into believing those penny-ante U.N. sanctions are having an effect on the Iranian economy. But … the man is not popular. He had his ass handed to him at the phony polls last month and his Holocaust conference didn’t exactly enhance the regime’s credibility. And the goodwill he earned with Iran’s neighbors by demagoguing the U.S. is up in smoke in the anti-Shia Iraq backlash among Sunnis.

Has Mahdi become radioactive?

Less than a month after the United Nations Security Council imposed sanctions on Iran to curb its nuclear program, two hard-line newspapers, including one owned by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called on the president to stay out of all matters nuclear.

In the hazy world of Iranian politics, such a public rebuke was seen as a sign that the Supreme Leader himself — who has final say on all matters of state — may no longer support the president as the public face of defiance to the West…

[T]he message that Iran’s most senior officials seem to be sending is that the president, with his harsh approach and caustic comments, is undermining Iran’s cause and its standing.

Mr. Ahmadinejad dismissed the Security Council resolution as “a piece of torn paper.

“But the daily newspaper Jomhouri-Elsami, which belongs to Ayatollah Khamenei, said, “The resolution is certainly harmful for the country,” adding that it is “too much to call it a piece of torn paper.”…

The stock market, which was already in a slump, continued to decline more rapidly in the past month as buyers stayed away. The daily Kargozaran reported last week the number of traders decreased by 46 percent since the Security Council resolution was passed.

“The resolution has had a psychological effect on people,” said Ali Hagh, an economist in Tehran. “It does not make sense for investors not to consider political events when they want to invest their money.”

Jordan’s not waiting around to see how this plays out: King Abdullah said today that his country will pursue nuclear “power.” Meanwhile, an Iranian delegation arrived in North Korea this morning, a few hours before a bipartisan group in the House introduced a bill making sure Bush gets their non-approval before launching any attacks on Tehran.