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Iran approves hard-line cabinet: loyalty over experience?

The president had been criticized for choosing loyalty over competence. Three of the most controversial new ministers have links to the Revolutionary Guard.

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Argentina wants Vahidi arrested for his alleged role in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish cultural center that killed 85 people; Interpol agreed two years ago to help Argentina seek his arrest, and his nomination as defense minister was widely condemned internationally.

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But in Iran, where senior lawmaker and presidential ally Alaeddin Boroujerdi called the international effort to arrest Vahidi a “Zionist plot,” he seems to be something of an anti-Israel hero. After 227 of 286 lawmakers approved his nomination, they chanted “Death to Israel!” according to the Los Angeles Times.

Vahidi is widely reported to be the former commander in chief of an elite unit in the Revolutionary Guard known as the Quds Force. According to globalsecurity.org, the Quds Force trains Islamic fundamentalist terrorist groups in Iran and abroad.

Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi
Mr. Moslehi also has links to the Revolutionary Guard, having served as the Supreme Leader’s representative to the basij, an affiliated force of millions of volunteers who helped to quell protesting after the disputed June 12 election this year.

A cleric, he meets the constitutional requirement that all intelligence ministers come from the robed class, but critics say he has no experience in intelligence. Lawmakers supported him in a vote of 194 to 67, with 25 abstentions.

Ahmadinejad’s last intelligence minister was fired in late July as the president and his allies intensified pressure for the mass trial of more than 100 people arrested in the aftermath of the elections, and the use of confessions believed to be extracted under duress.

According to Rooz Online, the Ministry of Intelligence has created a new branch to figure out who leaked information about the secret burial of those killed in post-election violence.

“It is unfortunate that instead of pursuing those who perpetrate such illegal, unethical and inhuman acts, the Ministry of Intelligence is trying to find out who has exposed the illegal activities and possibly arresting them,” an anonymous source described as a “senior specialist [with] a long record of confronting reformers” told Rooz.

Oil Minister Masoud Mirkazemi
Ahmadinejad’s former commerce minister, Mr. Mirkazemi is a former commander in the Revolutionary Guard, which has significantly increased its economic power under the current president – particularly in the energy sector. However, he is a newcomer to the Oil Ministry and has no experience in the industry, according to the Associated Press, which notes that 80 percent of Iran’s foreign revenues come from oil exports.

Nevertheless, Ahmadinejad seems convinced his ally is well prepared to run one of the country’s most crucial sectors, calling him a “brave combatant.” Lawmakers voted 147-117 in favor of Mirkazemi, who holds a PhD in industrial engineering a formerly served as chancellor of Shahed University.

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