Résumé Scandal May Weaken Iran's Leader

By Thomas Erdbrink
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, September 10, 2008

TEHRAN, Sept. 9 -- Apparent résumé-padding by a newly appointed cabinet minister is causing division among President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's supporters and may force him to submit the cabinet to a review by the Iranian parliament, which is led by one of the president's key political opponents.

On Tuesday, Iran's science ministry informed parliament that Interior Minister Ali Kordan had failed to present his much-touted Oxford law degree to the ministry for validation.

In August, 10 days after Kordan was sworn in and distributed copies of the degree, the University of Oxford posted a statement on its Web site saying it had no record of him receiving an honorary doctorate of law or any other degree from the university.

Ahmadinejad had initially defended Kordan, saying he should not be judged on the basis of "a torn paper," but later ordered an investigation into all academic qualifications obtained by government officials since 1985.

Kordan has not commented publicly on the matter.

Iranian analysts say the issue puts the entire cabinet under pressure. "The government is facing a very tough dilemma. Both keeping him on or replacing Kordan will have large consequences," said Iraj Jamshidi, political editor of the Etemaad newspaper, which is critical of the government. "The president's faction is now loudly complaining about Ahmadinejad for supporting the minister, while his political opponents are having a field day over this."

Iran's constitution requires the president to resubmit his cabinet for parliamentary approval if more than half of the ministers are replaced. Ahmadinejad has replaced nine of 21 ministers, and his science and information technology ministers are entangled in impeachment proceedings.

If Ahmadinejad is forced to seek parliamentary approval for the cabinet, analysts said, speaker Ali Larijani and other critics of Ahmadinejad could obstruct his attempt to overhaul Iran's subsidy system.

But with presidential elections slated for June, members of parliament, many of whom are highly critical of the government, could exploit Kordan's vulnerability to suit their own agendas, said Mehrdad Serjoei, an analyst unaffiliated with the government. "The parliament could use a very weak interior minister," he said.

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