The pressure on Mahmud Ahmadinejad is mounting in the power struggle that has pitted the Iranian president against the country's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.
At the center of the dispute, which heated up after Khamenei reinstated the information minister Heydar Moslehi (who had reportedly been forced to resign by Ahmadinejad), is the president’s closest and most trusted aide Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei -- a man despised by the clergy.
In the past few days, there have been a number of calls for Mashaei to be arrested.
Mashaei, a controversial figure, is facing a long list of accusations, including bewitching Ahmadinejad, promoting an Iranian doctrine instead of an Islamic one, pushing for ties with the U.S., having contacts with foreign secret services, and aiming to limit the role of Khamenei.
The latest charge against him comes from a hard-line lawmaker Hamid Rasayi, who has called on the judiciary to arrest Mashaei.
Rasayi, who used to be an Ahmadinejad supporter, said in an interview
with the semi-official Fars news agency that Mashei is not only intent on becoming Iran’s next president but his “mission” is to divert the Islamic establishment from its path.
“In Mashei’s opinion, the leader’s position should become just a ceremonial post and many Islamic values should turn into nationalistic ones," he said.
Rasayi added that Mashei, who is referred to as the head of a “deviant current,” has many common goals with the “sedition," which is the term Iranian officials use to describe the Green opposition movement.
“They both want to eliminate Velayat Faghih [meaning the rule of the cleric; the cleric as head of state].” he said.
Meanwhile, Hossein Hamedani, the head of Tehran’s Revolutionary Guard, has said that Basij militia forces are preparing themselves for “preventive action.”
He also issued a warning
to the “enemies” of the Islamic republic and the "deviant current”.
Hamedani was quoted as saying that a maneuver held by the Basij militia last week was an oath of allegiance to Iran’s leader Ayatollah Khamenei, who had warned about a “deviant trend’ that is being guided from outside the country.
Hamedani also said that the “sedition” had been defeated; adding that his only worry now was that it might become connected with the “deviant current”.
Mashaei’s newly launched “Hafte Sobh” newspaper has reported that hard-liners who are paving the way for his arrest have been trying hard in recent days to send him to prison.
In the past few days, more than 20 people close to Mashaei and Ahmadinejad are reported to have been detained in Iran.
“Hafte Sobh” says Mashaei is not likely to be intimidated by the threats and calls on “free-minded people” and “real reformists”
to stay the course.
In another blow to Ahmadinejad, the powerful Guardian Council reportedly said on May 20
that the president’s decision to appoint himself caretaker of the Oil Ministry is illegal and violates the constitution.
Ahmadinejad had said he is taking control of the Oil Ministry, which he is seeking to merge with the Energy Ministry in an effort to restructure and streamline the government.
Ahmadinejad, who is usually not a man of compromise, has so far remained silent in the face of increasing pressure and mounting attacks.
It remains to be seen how he would react if his right-hand man gets arrested.
-- Golnaz Esfandiari