AFP: Iran’s ruling conservatives on Saturday ratcheted up pressure on President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to detach himself from his chief of staff and scrap plans to line up his own favourites for elections next year.
TEHRAN (AFP) — Iran’s ruling conservatives on Saturday ratcheted up pressure on President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to detach himself from his chief of staff and scrap plans to line up his own favourites for elections next year.
Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s representative in the elite Revolutionary Guards said Ahmadinejad’s government had been infiltrated by “corrupt elements” and urged the president to return to the “right path.”
“Unfortunately the government is inflicted by a great calamity, which is the presence of corrupt elements,” said Hojatoleslam Ali Saeedi, quoted by Mehr news agency.
Saeedi’s criticism was directed at Ahmadinejad’s chief of staff, top adviser and close relative, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie — the bane of the religious traditionalists in the Iranian regime.
Mashaie is accused of leading a “current of deviation,” a term coined by his opponents to define a ideological movement which they say is too liberal, nationalist and not nearly religious enough to coexist with the conservatives.
Conservative figures have thus repeatedly demanded the sacking of Mashaie, who has worked closely with Ahmadinejad for more than 25 years.
“If the current of deviation comes to power, it will damage Islam and the revolution. There are signs that religion itself is in danger,” said ultra-conservative cleric Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbah Yazdi.
The conservatives have also accused Mashaie, believed to have been groomed by Ahmadinejad to succeed him in 2013, of putting the president “under a spell.”
In support of the charges, the judiciary has announced the arrest of several “sorcerers” with alleged links to elements in the Ahmadinejad administration.
On Saturday, Hojatoleslam Saeedi repeated the accusations.
Those in the government who have used “satanic methods such as sorcery or witchcraft are truly corrupt” and have committed an act which is forbidden by God, said Saeedi.
He also accused the president of having ignored the will of Khamenei, who in July 2009 had opposed the appointment of Mashaie as first vice president, by giving him “more power” as chief of staff.
Referring to Ahmadinejad’s 10-day withdrawal from public eye in late April, Saeedi slammed the president for not accepting Khamenei’s veto of the dismissal of intelligence minister Heydar Moslehi.
“We hope that Ahmadinejad will return to the right path,” he said.
The president has so far vigorously defended Mashaie and his entourage against all charges.
Last week, he publicly defended another close aide, vice president Hamid Baghaie, recently accused by the judiciary and conservatives of abusing power in several obscure cases.
First vice president Mohammad Reza Rahim responded Saturday, denouncing those who seek to “undermine the regime by launching baseless accusations” against the government.
“These are very dangerous people, who create obstacles for the government and regime,” he said in remarks reported by the official IRNA news agency.
The unprecedented attacks against Ahmadinejad come as the president and his team have not hidden their desire to present their own candidates to compete against the ruling conservatives in parliamentary elections of March 2012.
Both sides have linked the aborted dismissal of Moslehi, whose ministry has a vital role in vetting electoral candidates, to the upcoming election.
“The current of deviation… seeks to use its money and power to influence the upcoming election,” Fars news agency quoted Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, head of the powerful Guards, as saying on Saturday.
Saeedi for his part advised the Ahmadinejad government against intervening in the poll.
“Those responsible for overseeing the election… must ensure that the government does not intervene in the process,” Saeedi said.