Iranian Power Struggle? Is Ahmadinejad On His Way Out?
Will Christmas come really early for Americans this year? It already has but maybe…not quite.
First, there was the long-awaited, long-prayed for death of Osama bin Laden — and via American bullets, not by natural causes, yet. And now there are an increasing number of reports that Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad could be on his way out — due to defying Iran’s Supreme (and supremely powerful) Leader for essentially what would be insubordination in Iran’s power-at-the-religious-top system. But the latest reports suggest Iran’s President will continue to be a political survivor.
He deferred to Ali Khamenei in the end. And pressure was in tense. Here’s an earlier report:
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”.
“God’s respresenative on earth?” Who does he think he is? Glenn Beck?
But Iran’s President caved. That may relieve some of the pressure to have him dumped but not all:
Apparently bowing to unprecedented pressure from Iran’s clerical establishment,
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad welcomed an intelligence minister he had ousted in April back into his cabinet meeting on Sunday.
While Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had publicly reinstated intelligence minister Heydar Moslehi following his dismissal by Ahmadinejad, it took more than three weeks for the two men to officially meet in a cabinet session.
Following the supreme leader’s decision, Ahmadinejad did not go to his office for eight days. He returned to work a week ago, publicly pledging his allegiance to Khamenei and denying that a rift had developed between the two men. But when the cabinet met on Wednesday, the president and Moslehi apparently avoided being in the same room, Web sites reported, citing “busy schedules” as their reason for not meeting.
Ahmadinejad’s delay in confirming Khamenei’s decision led to public anger by clerics, parliamentarians and military commanders, who accused the president of ignoring orders from the Supreme Leader. Khamenei, who has been the highest authority in the Islamic Republic since 1989, has the final say over state and religious matters in Iran, but, according to the 1979 constitution, daily affairs are handled by the government, parliament and the judiciary.
The criticisms of Ahmadinejad are reportedly plentiful:
Several key Iranian leaders are publicly demanding that Ahmadinejad cut ties with Esfandiar Rahim Mashaee. He is the closest adviser of the president, but a man hated by Iran’s clerics for advocating the importance of Iranian culture over Islamic tenets.
Mashaee is seen by some as the leader of a “deviated” current of politicians who aim to decrease the influence of Shiite clerics, opponents say.
After years of tolerating him, influential ayatollahs, politicians and officials in the last weeks referred to Mashaee in terms normally used for Iran’s worst enemies, labeling him a foreign spy, a freemason and a leader of an effort to overthrow the Islamic Republic.
A freemason? Next he’ll be accused of belonging to the Moose Lodge.
Al Jazeera’s report on the political tensions:
Meanwhile, the President’s office rejects news reports of any ultimatum:
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s office rejected media reports that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei demanded he openly back the intelligence minister or step down.
Newspapers, including Tehran-based Shargh, have reported there is a widening rift between Iranian leaders, reflected by Ahmadinejad’s dispute with his minister, Heidar Moslehi. The Tehran-based Aftab newspaper on May 5 said Khamenei issued an ultimatum to Ahmadinejad to support the minister, citing Parliamentary member Morteza Agha-Tehrani.
“This news is wrong and it’s hereby rejected,” the president’s office said in a statement published late yesterday on its website. “We request all media to avoid publishing unofficial news about the president.”
Khamenei — the country’s highest authority — last month reinstated Moslehi, whose resignation had earlier been accepted by the president. Ahmadinejad stayed away from official meetings for a week following the reinstatement, though he denied there were conflicts when he returned to work on May 2. He didn’t elaborate on his absence and has yet to back the reinstatement.
In a sermon in Tehran yesterday, senior cleric Kazem Sedighi urged the president to submit to the will of Khamenei, the state-run Fars news agency reported.
Global Voices reports that Islamist bloggers are divided over this rift.