Iran's Ahmadinejad survives worst storm of his presidency
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei have been locked in a stand-off that had some predicting the president would resign this past weekend.
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“We saw that some celebrated. They said the rift has been created,” Ahmadinejad told the cabinet on Sunday, according to a translation of state-run TV by the Associated Press. IRNA news agency quoted him saying that despite “propaganda by enemies over my absence [from cabinet meetings], my entire life … has been geared toward velayat.”Skip to next paragraph
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The dispute over the top intelligence post is just one problem for Ahmadinejad, whose son is married to Mashaie’s daughter. Both men have not hidden their obsession with the 12th Imam – the Muslim messiah who Shiites believe will return one day to bring justice to the world – nor their view that this apocalyptic return is imminent.
But many in Iran, including many clerics, see a swift return of the messiah as superstition only – a view that played into the arrest of a handful of Ahmadinejad allies for "sorcery."
Among them was Abbas Amirifar, who heads the president’s cultural affairs office, and was picked up on May 1 for promoting a DVD called “The Appearance is Imminent” that describes the president, supreme leader and chief of Lebanon’s Shiite Hezbollah movement, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, as paving the way for the return of the 12th Imam.
Other arrests have also been reported among those close to Mashaie – whom Ahmadinejad is widely believed to be positioning to succeed him as Iran’s next president – for “sorcery” and summoning of spirits.
“Certain people within the regime have forgotten the values of the revolution and seek to misrepresent Islam … but the people do not follow demons or djinns, and will not tolerate such deviance,” warned Revolutionary Guard commander Mohammad Ali Jafari.
Mashaie has drawn fire from hard-liners for promoting an “Iranian school of Islam” that amounts to Islam without clerics – a taboo notion is this religious regime. He has in the past spoken about the Israelis – citizens of Iran’s archenemy – as “beautiful people.”
Ahmadinejad's gutsy politics
When Ahmadinejad named Mashaie first vice president in 2009, Khamenei overruled him. But to the surprise of many, the president took one week to act on Khamenei’s order – and then snubbed the supreme leader by appointing Mashaie to be his chief of staff.
The political gamesmanship has shown Ahmadinejad to be a gutsy politician, in keeping with his accumulation of power in a presidential post that – almost by definition in Iran – has limited influence.
But the latest episode also shows a lack of judgment that will embolden Ahmadinejad’s enemies.
“I think he overplayed his hand,” says Khonsari in London, though he says Ahmadinejad is far from a lame duck president. “He’s just received a setback at this stage [and] it has some political costs for him. But it's not something that will cripple him just yet.”