Feature

Iran: Don’t question the supreme leader

When President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad tried to fire his intelligence minister, Heydar Moslehi, he was overruled by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

A smackdown by Iran’s supreme leader has put Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in his place, said Kaveh Afrasiabi in the Hong Kong Asia Times. When the president tried two weeks ago to fire his powerful intelligence minister, Heydar Moslehi, he was overruled by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. For a tense 11 days, Ahmadinejad boycotted all cabinet meetings as Iranians waited to see whether he would comply. Clerics preached against him at Friday prayers, all but accusing him of apostasy for failing to immediately obey the supreme leader. Finally, this week the chastened president appeared at a cabinet meeting alongside the now reinstated Moslehi. But with his authority so publicly undermined, the president has effectively become “a lame duck” until the 2013 election.

The rift reflects a feeling among hard-liners that Ahmadinejad has embraced an overly nationalistic version of Islam, said Saeed Kamali Dehghan in the London Guardian. Supporters of the supreme leader say that Ahmadinejad is surrounded by “deviants” in his inner circle, particularly his chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, “an opponent of greater involvement of clerics in politics.” This being Iran, the criticism has taken a religious, even mystical tone. Mashaei and his allies have been accused of “using supernatural powers and invoking jinns,” or spirits, to further government policies. Several Mashaei aides were arrested last week, and one was described in official media as “a man with special skills in metaphysics and connections with the unknown worlds.” The implication is that Ahmadinejad has drifted away from the principles of the Islamic Revolution.

That’s exactly what has happened, said Mehdi Mohammadi in the Tehran Keyhan. Some of the president’s “close friends” have been “repeating liberal and nationalistic language and compromising Islamic symbols and principles.” Some of them even have ties to “foreigners and corrupt people.” Intelligence Minister Moslehi, to his credit, was aware of this danger and was investigating, but “unfortunately” the president tried to stop him. Let’s not make too much of that, said presidential adviser Ali Akbar Javanfekr in the Tehran Iran. Once Ahmadinejad returned to the cabinet meetings, he treated Moslehi cordially and professionally. With “his intelligence and tact,” the president has proved that he takes seriously his “religious and legal duty” to obey the supreme leader.

The clear winner in this power struggle will be the reformist faction now waiting in the wings, said Hamid Reza Shokouhi in the Tehran Mardom Salari. The hard-liners are now deeply split between those opposed to Ahmadinejad and those who support him. That split could benefit the reformists around former President Mohammad Khatami in upcoming parliamentary elections. Wouldn’t it be wiser for our government leaders to “serve the people with peace” rather than “creating a crisis for themselves” by wallowing in infighting?

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