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Ahmadinejad's future hangs in the balance - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad holds up copies of the Quran and the Bible as he addresses the 65th United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. headquarters in New York in this September 23, 2010 file picture. Source Reuters/Mike Segar

Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad holds up copies of the Quran and the Bible as he addresses the 65th United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. headquarters in New York in this September 23, 2010 file picture. Source Reuters/Mike Segar

London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Abdollah Haj-Sadeghi, a representative of Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), has reportedly revealed that outgoing president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad met with the supreme leader three times to plead the case of Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, his favored aide and confidant. According to the Jahan news website, the meetings took place during the three-week period between the Guardian Council’s decision to disqualify Mashaei from the presidential elections and the poll held on June 14.

President Ahmadinejad is reported to have petitioned Ayatollah Khamenei to issue a sovereign ruling overruling the Guardian Council’s disqualification of Mashaei on three separate occasions, but was rebuffed each time.

Ayatollah Khamenei refused to act in favor of the outgoing president and his favored candidate. During a meeting with Friday prayer imams one day before the Guardian Council’s verdict, Khamenei emphasized that he would not interfere in the election process. “This time, I have not spoken with the Guardian Council, nor will I do so,” Ayatollah Khamenei was quoted as saying by Jahan News.

It is not known exactly what was discussed in these meetings, but the results were clear: Ahmadinejad failed to convince Khamenei to rule in favor of Mashaei, perhaps in response to previous tensions between the president and the supreme leader.

Ja’far Shajooni, a radical cleric and former staunch supporter of Ahmadinejad, expressed his regret over the president’s behavior, according to the E’temad daily newspaper.

Shajooni criticized Ahmadinejad for promoting his inner circle and troublesome aides, particularly Mashaei, claiming that this had even ruined Ahmadinejad’s first term in office.

The conservative faction appears to feel betrayed by Ahmadinejad and seems unwilling to forgive him, particularly in light of the electoral defeat suffered by the conservative camp. Earlier this week, a summons for Ahmadinejad to attend court was issued. What is striking about this warrant is that the court date is almost four months after he leaves office.

Ahmadinejad’s government enjoyed the complete support of the conservative faction following the 2005 and 2009 elections. However, the view among many radical conservatives that Ahmadinejad was seeking to transcend the boundaries set by the conservative camp and introduce Mashaei as his chosen successor lost him—and, by extension, Mashaei—their support.

Previously, Ahmadinejad resisted implementing Ayatollah Khamenei’s demand that Mashaei be removed from his post as first vice-president at the beginning of the outgoing president’s second term in office in 2009.

Ahmadinejad also boycotted his official duties for a period of approximately 11 days after Khamenei rejected the president’s dismissal of intelligence minister Heidar Moslehi in 2011.

Over the last 8 years, Ahmadinejad’s government has attracted accusations of benefitting unqualified officials and contractors as part of a populist approach of securing maximum publicity with minimum accountability.

But despite this general post-election sentiment towards Ahmadinejad and Mashaei, it is too early to predict their fates, particularly given that both men claim to have knowledge of as-yet-unreported scandals involving high-ranking state officials.