Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reversed a plan to attend a meeting of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in Vienna next month.
Iran is currently holding the presidency of the 12-nation oil cartel and Ahmedinejad reportedly had plans to take center stage at the OPEC summit. However, Iranian media reported on Tuesday that the president will not attend the summit let alone preside over it.
Ahmadinejad announced that he will not take part at the OPEC meeting in June ... and will appoint one of his cabinet ministers to attend the meeting, IRNA quoted a senior Oil Ministry official, Shojaoddin Bazargani, as saying.
Many theories are floating around the dramatic withdrawal of Ahmedinejad who usually likes world stages to whip up controversies and hog limelight through incendiary rhetoric.
Of all explanations bandied out in the media, two stand out significantly: One is that Ahmedinejad is increasingly losing clout in Iran's ruling establishment ever since his differences with Supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei came out in the open last month.
The news that Ahmadinejad could be turning up at the OPEC meeting among other countries' oil ministers raised significant fears that he was seeking to use the meeting as a political platform to enhance his global status and politicize OPEC's efforts to bring stability to the oil markets at a very crucial time, IHS Senior Middle East Energy analyst Samuel Ciszuk wrote in a note.
The announcement that he is not going is, however, widely seen as evidence of the Iranian president caving in to fierce criticism over him trying to take personal control of the strategic Oil Ministry and in the longer term put his own allies in important posts throughout the normally technocratic ministry and state industry as he merges it with the Electricity Ministry, Ciszuk wrote.
Amid a worsening power struggle, which has not only seen his relations deteriorate further with the country's conservative factions and clergy but also openly flaunted a break-down in trust between the president and his superior, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei, it is not surprising that he has chosen not to leave the country for several days, even if it would have allowed him to reassert himself in the international community and to lift oil prices by inflammatory rhetoric, all of which could have been used to strengthen his domestic position.
The second theory is that Ahmadinjead's presence at the Summit would have led to a flaring up of Saudi-Iranian tension over the former's troop deployment in Bahrain, where a Shia-led anti-government struggle was quelled with the support of Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia.
“Ahmadinejad’s absence leaves Saudi Arabia free to conduct the agenda as it sees fit ... without the distraction of this spotlight-grabbing leader,” said Cliff Kupchan, an Iran expert at Eurasia Group, according to the New York Times.