Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may have gained greater short-term power with the resignation of Iran's top nuclear negotiator, but the departure appears to have further damaged the president's standing among many conservatives in the Islamic republic.
Ali Larijani's surprise resignation over the weekend has been widely interpreted as a victory for Ahmadinejad because it could lead Iran to take an even tougher stance in ongoing nuclear talks with the West. Though a conservative, Larijani was considered more moderate than Ahmadinejad within Iran's hardline camp, and the two men had previously clashed on how to approach the talks.
But Larijani's removal could further undermine Ahmadinejad in Iran. While the Iranian president has drawn tremendous worldwide attention for his fiery rhetoric, he has faced much criticism at home, including by past supporters, who say he has failed to improve Iran's economy and unnecessarily worsened the standoff with the West. Even some in top echelons of the clerical leadership headed by Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have expressed concern.
On Monday, 183 lawmakers, most of them conservatives, passed a measure praising Larijani's performance as nuclear negotiator, a clear sign of displeasure with his departure. A parliamentary group wrote a letter of complaint to Ahmadinejad for failing to inform them of the resignation in advance or consult with them on Larijani's successor.
Saeed Jalili, a little-known deputy foreign minister for European and American affairs considered loyal to Ahmadinejad, is the new negotiator. He, along with Larijani, is due to talk about the nuclear program with the European Union's foreign policy chief Tuesday in Rome.