The times they are a-changin’ in Iran. Contrary to the narrative offered in the Western media, Ahmedinejad is no Shiite fundamentalist, argues Jamsheed Choksy. He’s merely a totalitarian hellbent on securing his power.

The recent Green Movement protests have ostensibly weakened the hand of Iran’s clerics over national life, and this transformation of Iranian politics is even reflected in Ahmedinejad’s distancing–and repudiation of–the rule of the clerics.

“Ahmadinejad has publicly chastised his rivals in the government for “running to Qum for every instruction,” adding that “administering the country should not be left to the [Supreme] Leader, the religious scholars, and other [clerics].” His chief of staff, and relative through marriage, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, echoes those views: “An Islamic government is not capable of running a vast and populous country like Iran. Running a country is like a horse race, but the problem is that [the clergy] are not horse racers.””

Iranians, tired of stagnant clerical rule, are perhaps moving towards a more secular form of government, where the important political decisions are left to the politicians. This does not mean that Iran will transform into a secular republic overnight, but it will likely become a pragmatic, non-theocratic authoritarian government–if not in words, but at least in practice.