Iran's supreme leader tells Ahmadinejad: accept minister or quit
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's ultimatum widens rift between leaders and increases pressure on president
Saeed Kamali Dehghan
Friday 6 May 2011 19.03 BST
Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has declined to officially support the supreme leader's reinstatement of a minister. Photograph: Raheb Homavandi/Reuters
An unprecedented power struggle at the heart of the Iranian regime has intensified after it emerged that the supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, had given an ultimatum to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to accept his intervention in a cabinet appointment or resign.
A member of the Iranian parliament, Morteza Agha-Tehrani – who is described as "Ahmadinejad's moral adviser" – told a gathering of his supporters on Friday that a meeting between Ahmadinejad and Khamenei had recently taken place, in which the president was given a deadline to resign or to accept the decision of the ayatollah.
The extraordinary confrontation came to light after Ahmadinejad declined to officially support Khamenei's reinstatement of a minister whom the president had initially asked to resign.
The rift between the two men grew when the president staged an 11-day walkout in an apparent protest at Khamenei's decision. In the first cabinet meeting since ending his protest, the intelligence minister at the centre of the row, Heydar Moslehi, was absent and in the second one on Wednesday, he was reportedly asked by Ahmadinejad to leave.
In a video released on Iranian websites, Agha-Tehrani quotes Ahmadinejad as saying: "[Khamenei] gave me a deadline to make up my mind. I would either accept [the reinstatement] or resign."
Although Khamenei is not constitutionally allowed to intervene in cabinet appointments, an unwritten law requires all officials to always abide by the supreme leader without showing any opposition.
Clerics close to Khamenei have launched a campaign to highlight his role in Iranian politics, saying that to disobey him is equal to apostasy, as he is "God's representative on earth".
Meanwhile, the president was reportedly absent from religious ceremonies this week at Khamenei's house, where he was publicly criticised by close allies of the ayatollah. Iranian officials are traditionally required to participate in such ceremonies in order to cover up any political rift that might compromise Khamenei's power.
Iran's semi-official Mehr news agency reported on Thursday that several members of parliament had revived a bid to summon Ahmadinejad for questioning over "the recent events". It said 90 MPs had signed the petition, up from only 12 last week.
Under Iranian law, at least 85 more signatures are required for a possible impeachment of the president.
Supporters of Khamenei say that Ahmadinejad is surrounded by "deviants" in his inner circle, including his controversial chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, who wants to undermine the involvement of clerics in Iran's politics. Mashaei and his allies have recently been accused of using supernatural powers and invoking djinns (spirits) in pursuing the government's policies.
On Thursday, the commander of the powerful revolutionary guards, Mohammad Ali Jafari, was quoted by the semi-official Fars news agency as saying: "People [close to Khamenei] are not relying on djinns, fairies and demons ... and they will not stand any deviation [of the government in this regime]."
Iran's elite revolutionary guards, who played an important role in securing Ahmadinejad a second term in Iran's 2009 "rigged" elections, have distanced themselves from Ahmadinejad in recent months as Mashaei's "secular" views have become more pronounced. In the face of these recent confrontation with Khamenei, Ahmadinejad has been left isolated, with only a handful of serious supporters.Iran's opposition, exhausted by the brutal crackdown of the green movement and the placing of its leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi under house arrest in the past 80 days, has found itself watching these recent developments and wondering what will happen next.
Ahmadinejad Floored By Bugs, Spirits, And Djinns
By Robert Tait, RFE/RL
Whenever cornered, Mahmud Ahmadinejad always seems to come out swinging. But Iran's notoriously abrasive president appears in danger of suffering a knockout blow over his political attachment to Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaei, a man widely seen as a threat to the country's clerical-based political system.
What had been a long-rumbling but low-intensity row has now become so rancorous that it appears Ahmadinejad has lost the political support of his onetime patron, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, who has the final say on all state matters.
And dislike of Rahim-Mashaei, the president's chief of staff whom he is believed to have anointed as an eventual successor, has grown so visceral and widespread that some believe it has reduced Ahmadinejad to a lame duck and may even prevent him completing his second term.
Matters appeared to reach crisis point this week when it emerged that several presidential aides -- including two known to be close to Rahim-Mashaei -- were arrested by the security services.
One, Abbas Ghaffari, was said by Tehran's chief prosecutor to be involved with spirits and exorcism. Another, Abbas Amirifar, head of the president's cultural office, was linked to a controversial recent film, "The Appearance Is Imminent", which praised Ahmadinejad -- as well as Khamenei -- for paving the way for the return of the 12th imam, one of Shi'a Islam's holiest figures, whose return to earth is supposed to herald a new era of peace. The president's messianic forecasts for the return of the imam are deeply controversial to many clerics, who believe he is unqualified to preach on religious affairs.
Scott Lucas, head of the EA World View website and an Iran specialist at Birmingham University in England, says the accusations against his aides are symptomatic of the Islamic republic's biggest political crisis since the disputed 2009 presidential election, which reformists claim Ahmadinejad stole.
"Mr. Amirifar was arrested apparently in connection with this controversy that claims the Hidden Imam is about to return and that the president is a prophet who is welcoming that," Lucas explains.
"Mr. Ghaffari was effectively accused by conservative websites of being someone who called up spirits, who dabbled in the black arts -- again this supposed connection that Ahmadinejad's enemies are making of Ahmadinejad and Rahim-Mashaei being involved in this mysticism around the Hidden Imam," he continues. "One of the websites said that the interrogator of Ghaffari had suffered a heart attack because of Ghaffari's skill in the black arts. The fact that the tales are out there and that they are escalating is a sign that there is a very heated political dispute going on."
President Rebuked By Supreme Leader
Amid Iranian power struggle and arrests for sorcery, a thwarted Iranian channel to the U.S.?
By Laura Rozen
U.S. policy makers long ago accepted that America does not well understand what goes on inside the black box of Iran's power centers. This through-a-glass-darkly vantage springs in part from the three-decade breach in U.S.-Iran diplomatic relations in the wake of the 1979 Islamic Revolution overthrowing the U.S.-backed shah.
Still, American diplomatic hands and their European colleagues have been tracking signs of a seeming power struggle inside the Iranian leadership between Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other conservatives. This rivalry contributed to the scuttling of a nuclear fuel swap deal that had initially won the approval of Ahmadinejad and his negotiating team at international talks in Geneva in October 2009. Ahmadinejad later reneged on the deal, amid criticism from Iranian hardliners and the opposition.
Even though President Barack Obama came into office determined to put relations with Iran on a new footing, U.S.-Iran relations remain almost as troubled now as they were during the Bush era.
International negotiations to try to curb Iran's nuclear program have only gone downhill since the 2009 Geneva meeting. Indeed, at the January round of so-called P5+1 talks on the Iranian nuclear program in Istanbaul--involving UN Security Council permanent members the United States, France, the UK, China, Russia, plus Germany (which this reporter covered), Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili declined to meet with his American counterpart, U.S. diplomat Bill Burns, one on one. The reason Jalili gave for begging off was--yes--a headache.
In recent weeks, Iran has further antagonized Washington with its taunting reaction to the Arab spring rebellions. Iran's reaction has created a ripple effect in the region, stoking tensions with the United States' anxious Sunni Gulf allies, in particular the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Still, as remote and arcane as the Iranian political scene seems to outsiders in the West, it's hard to imagine how U.S. diplomats are sussing out the latest, and increasingly bizarre, string of reports of an intensifying power struggle between Ahmadinejad and Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Iranian power struggle between president and supreme leader sees arrests and claims of undue influence of chief of staff
Ahmadinejad allies charged with sorcery
Saeed Kamali Dehghan
Thursday 5 May 2011
Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, who is described as 'the actual president of Iran' by allies of the country's supreme leader.
Close allies of Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, have been accused of using supernatural powers to further his policies amid an increasingly bitter power struggle between him and the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Several people said to be close to the president and his chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, have been arrested in recent days and charged with being "magicians" and invoking djinns (spirits).
Ayandeh, an Iranian news website, described one of the arrested men, Abbas Ghaffari, as "a man with special skills in metaphysics and connections with the unknown worlds".
The arrests come amid a growing rift between Ahmadinejad and Khamenei which has prompted several MPs to call for the president to be impeached.
On Sunday, Ahmadinejad returned to his office after an 11-day walkout in an apparent protest over Khamenei's reinstatement of the intelligence minister, who the president had initiallyasked to resign.
Ahmadinejad's unprecedented disobedience prompted harsh criticism from conservatives who warned that he might face the fate of Abdulhassan Banisadr, Iran's first post-revolution president who was impeached and exiled for allegedly attempting to undermine clerical power.
Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, a hardline cleric close to Khamenei, warned that disobeying the supreme leader – who has the ultimate power in Iran – is equivalent to "apostasy from God".
Ahmadinejad has so far declined to officially back Khamenei's ruling over Heydar Moslehi, the minister at the centre of the row. In the first cabinet meeting since the president returned, Moslehi was absent.
Khamenei's supporters believe that the top-level confrontation stems from the increasing influence of Mashaei, an opponent of greater involvement of clerics in politics, who is being groomed by Ahmadinejad as a possible successor.
But the feud has taken a metaphysical turn following the release of an Iranian documentary alleging the imminent return of the Hidden Imam Mahdi – the revered saviour of Shia Islam, whose reappearance is anticipated by believers in a manner comparable to that with which Christian fundamentalists anticipate the second coming of Jesus.
Conservative clerics, who say that the Mahdi's return cannot be predicted, have accused a "deviant current" within the president's inner circle, including Mashaei, of being responsible for the film.
Ahmadinejad's obsession with the hidden imam is well known. He often refers to him in his speeches and in 2009 said that he had documentary evidence that the US was trying to prevent Mahdi's return.
Since Ahmadinejad's return this week, at least 25 people, who are believed to be close to Mashaei, have been arrested. Among them is Abbas Amirifar, head of the government's cultural committee and some journalists of Mashaei's recently launched newspaper, Haft-e-Sobh.
On Saturday, Mojtaba Zolnour, Khamenei's deputy representative in the powerful Revolutionary Guard, said: "Today Mashaei is the actual president. Mr Ahmadinejad has held on to a decaying rope by relying on Mashaei."
What's Everyone Saying about Ahmadinejad?
08 May 2011
Muhammad Sahimi compiled the following news items and commentary:
Even though President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad returned to work after a ten-day absence, criticism of him by senior officials and influential figures who support Ayatollah Khamenei continued unabated -- as did the campaign to assert the Supreme Leader's absolute authority on the hearts and minds of the Iranian people. While most do not name Ahmadinejad, it is clear he is the target: In a ceremony commemorating the war martyrs of the Province of Fars in southern Iran, Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, the top commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), said, "After 33 years [since the Revolution] the people of Iran will not tolerate any deviations [from the revolutionary path]. We should be aware that, in addition to foreign evils, internal evils have also been organized to defeat the Revolution. Deviations from the Islamic Republic -- which is natural -- sometimes occurs in foreign policy, sometimes against people's resistance, sometimes in economic affairs, but most importantly against the main pillar of the political system, Velaayat-e Faghih. Without Velaayat-e Faghih the Islamic Republic is similar to the rest of republics in the region that also claim to be Islamic republics. To remain in the revolutionary path is to obey the Faghih [the Supreme Leader]. Anyone who stands against the Faghih, has undoubtedly not understood the meaning of the Islamic Revolution. Anyone who prefers his own views over those of the Faghih has violated the constitution."
Kazem Sadighi, leader (or Imam) of Tehran's Friday prayers, said, "His excellency, Ayatollah Khamenei is in the 'control tower' and monitors anything that may be against the interests of the society. He does not want anything for himself. Monitoring the President is that control tower... The relation between the President and the Leader is not one between father and son, because the President is a soldier of Velaayat-e Faghih and obeying him is a must. The President has said the same, but words are not the criterion, we are awaiting action [by the President]." Kayhan, the mouthpiece of part of the security/intelligence forces, used this quote as its banner headline on Sunday, May 8. Sadighi also said, "A war cannot have two commanders."
Kayhan also warned Ahmadinejad about those who have supposedly penetrated his government. In an editorial Mehdi Mohammadi warned that, "The pious and revolutionary people of Iran have been concerned over the last several days that there is a hand within the government that is trying to replace the Islamic values, for which people support the government, with fake principles and values." He warned that, "those who consider themselves close to the President," want to promote "liberalism, nationalism, opposition to Islamic values and symbols, establishing good relations with foreigners, and in summary, distancing [themselves] from the values of the Islamic Revolution."
Kayhan has also reported extensively about the financial dealings of Mashaei, Hamid Baghaei [another Ahmadinejad aide] and Mehdi Jahangiri, a close aide to Mashaei.
Read more: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/tehranbureau/2011/05/whats-everyone-saying-about-ahmadinejad.html#ixzz1LoWrBDO5
Friday Prayers Leader Targets President's Wife
Syrian News Roundup
06 May 2011
The public campaign to weaken President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and heighten the authority of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei may have entered a new stage today. In depicting Ayatollah Khamenei's status as that of an infallible Imam, Hojatoleslam Kazem Sadighi, leader of Tehran's Friday Prayers, even took a swipe at the president's wife. "One of the cabinet ministers told me, we believe that if his Excellency [Supreme Leader] decrees the divorce of the president's wife, the president's wife will become haram [religiously forbidden] for him and the president will no longer be able to touch her," Sadighi said in his sermon.
As our political columnist Muhammad Sahimi explains:
Friday prayer sermons all over Iran today were dedicated to the authority and power of Ayatollah Khamenei. The increasingly public rift between the two principlist camps has forced supporters of the Supreme Leader to rally around him and affirm his power. In his sermon today on the University of Tehran campus, where Tehran's official Friday Prayers are held, Sadighi said, "I was meeting some of the cabinet ministers, and surely all of them without exception are Shiites believing in Amir ol-Momenin [Imam Ali, the First Imam of the Shiites and cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet] and emulators of Hazrat-e Agha [His Excellency, Khamenei], before being a government official. One of the ministers told me, 'We believe that if His Excellency decrees the divorce of the president's wife, she will become haram [religiously forbidden] for him and the president will no longer be able to touch her. That is how [much] we believe in him [Khamenei]."
"We consider the Velaayat-Faghih [guardianship of the Islamic jurist, as represented by the Supreme Leader] above and beyond the Constitution. The late Mirza-ye Shirazi ordered the boycott of tobacco in Iran, and there was evidence that Imam Mahdi paid particular attention to it. Had the Constitution recognized Mirza-ye Shirazi as the Supreme Leader? Shiism has always been this way.
Shiites have always been and will always be led by the flag of Velaayat-e Faghih. When the Faghih of the era boycotted tobacco, he was living in Iraq, but his decree demonstrated the power of Velaayat in the world and terrified the enemies..."
Sadighi was referring to Ayatollah Seyyed Hassan Shirazi, who issued a fatwa in 1890 for a tobacco boycott, after the Persian king, Nasser al-din Shah, granted a tobacco concession to Britain that sparked widespread protests. Due to the boycott, the king had to cancel the concession and compensate the British company. Contrary to Sadighi's claim, however, there was no constitution at that time, as Iran was ruled by an absolute monarchy.
Sadighi went on,
"Not only are the powers of the Velaayat-e Faghih and Hazrat-e Agha as the leader of the country absolute according to the Constitution -- Article 4 of the Constitution is an umbrella for all the powers -- he is also Marja taghlid [source of emulation for the masses] for millions of people both outside and inside the country. Thus, even without the Revolution and the Constitution, Grand Ayatollah Khamenei would have been a Marja with millions of followers and, therefore, the most important person in Shiism."
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