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Choose your weapon

"Choose your weapon" Continued...

Issue: "Double trouble," Oct. 21, 2006

Ahmadinejad may be dominating the media spotlight with menacing rhetoric, but the nation's power does not rest upon him alone. Iran's government is built on two tiers: the presidency and the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The Expediency Council acts as the mediator between the two, and as a result, a myriad of leaders are often vying for power and control.

Iran's nuclear ambitions and subsequent international implications have launched heated debates among the nation's top ranks and sparked fear that fellow leaders could align with Western powers seeking a regime change-and all against the backdrop of a new deadline: Iran has until the third week in October to suspend enrichment, at which time the threat of sanctions could become a reality.

Initial sanctions would likely include minimal penalties such as travel bans for Iranian government officials but could increase in severity over time to include a ban on refined gasoline sales. Much of Iran's petroleum is exported for refinement, and reduced access could cripple the country's transportation sector.

But Iran's extremists have their eyes set primarily upon other matters: They long for the "glory days" of Islam when it reigned as the dominant civilization for more than a millennium, conquering one kingdom after another. Islam's downfall, they say, commenced when Muslims ceased being "good Muslims" and instead were influenced by those outside the faith. These radicals believe that Islam will once again reign supreme when the umma-or Muslim community-returns to the true faith.

That is why restricting the freedoms of women such as Seddigh-and for some, preparing the way for the 12th Imam-is more important than navigating a nuclear showdown.

As Laleh Seddigh seeks permission from racing officials to resume competition, opposition to her presence on the racetrack abounds. Iran's internal struggle continues between those who promote and enforce the laws and those who suffer under them. But unlike Seddigh, the international community moves with uncertainty, knowing that any nuclear standoff can quickly escalate from bad to worse.

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