[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/07/06/intv.molavi.art.jpg caption="Middle East expert, Afshin Molavi does not take Iran’s President Ahmadinejad seriously."]
There is major dissension in the ranks within Iran. A group of clerics in Iran is declaring the country's recent presidential election invalid. Also, Vice President Joe Bidden made comments signaling the White House may be changing its position on the possibility of Israel taking military action against Iran.
Middle East expert and author of the new book "The soul of Iran." Afshin Molavi spoke to CNN’s Alina Cho Monday.
Alina Cho: An influential group of clerics declaring Iran’s presidential election illegitimate, invalid. Why is this significant and what should we take from this?
Afshin Molavi: In many ways the Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, he derives his legitimacy from clerical unity. Any time you see this kind of clerical dissention in the ranks, it's a chink in his armor it’s a chink in the armor of the entire Islamic republic. But the important point to remember however is the clerics are not as powerful as they were 10, 15, 20 years ago. What we've been seeing over the past ten years is the gradual security militarization of Iran. And once we saw cracks in armor of the security, once we see factualism among them then I think that will be much more serious for the republic.
Cho: I want to turn to two conflicting statements by vice president Joe Biden on Israel and Iran. I'll get your reaction on the other side. The first one is from April 2009 he said “I don't believe that Prime Minister Netanyahu would do that. I think it was ill-advised to do that. The second statement is from yesterday on ABC's this week saying “Israel can determine for itself the sovereign nation what's in their interest and what they decide to do relative to Iran or anyone else.” Is this Biden just being Biden or is there something deeper going on here? Does this reflect a possible shift in U.S. policy?
Molavi: I think the first part of Biden just being Biden. It remains to be seen. Will the Obama administration back track those comments over the next couple days? We'll probably see if they do. It's also noteworthy that on the same day the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mike Mullen did say an Israeli strike on Iran would be deeply destabilizing to the region. There is one thing that’s clear; the Obama administration is deeply frustrated by Iran. President Obama staked a lot of political capital on his engagement strategy, even before these elections and the crisis erupted in Iran. Iran was not reacting positively to that. There is a great deal of frustration within the Obama administration. Perhaps Vice President Biden is channeling some of that frustration.
Cho: Iran’s President Ahmadinejad said he would want to meet with President Obama at the G-8 United Nations General Assembly this fall in September. Are we supposed to take this seriously?
Molavi: You know, I think as you said President Ahmadinejad said he'd like to do it in front of the international media. I'll give you a quick story I was in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia attending an OPEC heads of state summit. While all other heads of states left the hall, Ahmadinejad stuck around for a couple of hours to talk to the broadcast media. He likes the international lights he likes all the foreign policy theatrics. This is precisely why he developed opposition within Iran, particularly among some of the elites because they thought he was more interested in theatrics than substance. If you're really interested in resolving a dispute you do it behind closed doors. You engage in serious discussions. This to my mind was not a very serious offer.