NewsSpecial WireAhmadinejad ally to head Iran's centre for dialogue with...

Ahmadinejad ally to head Iran’s centre for dialogue with West

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Iran Focus: Tehran, Iran, Dec. 30 – Iran’s hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Sunday appointed a close ultra-conservative ally as the new head of the Centre for Dialogue among Civilisations, in a move that some analysts say jettisons the last remaining symbol of ex-President Mohammad Khatami’s program for rapprochement with the West. Iran Focus

Tehran, Iran, Dec. 30 – Iran’s hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Sunday appointed a close ultra-conservative ally as the new head of the Centre for Dialogue among Civilisations, in a move that some analysts say jettisons the last remaining symbol of ex-President Mohammad Khatami’s program for rapprochement with the West.

The Centre for Dialogue among Civilisations (CDAC) is to be incorporated into the National Centre for Globalisation Studies (NCGS), the official news agency IRNA reported.

Ahmadinejad appointed Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, an Iranian Vice-President, to run the NCGS, taking over from Mohammad Nahavandian. Mashaei will be supervising the CDAC in this capacity.

Mashaei also heads Iran’s Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organisation.

Mashaei is from the northern Iranian town of Tonekabon, which was called Shahsavar prior to Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution. In 1974, Mashaei joined the Hojjatieh association. Hojjatieh was a semi-clandestine religious and political group that was set up in the early 1950s in Iran by Sheikh Mahmoud Tavallai, popularly known as Sheikh Halabi, an extremist Shiite cleric who founded the group to eradicate members of the Baha’i faith. Ahmadinejad was also closely associated with the leaders of the group.

In 1979, Mashaei became a commander in the komitehs, a paramilitary armed organisation charged with law and order after the rise of Islamic clerics to power. He rose rapidly, becoming head of Tonekabon’s komiteh in the same year. He was soon appointed governor of the city and later became Deputy Minister of Mines and Industries. He also served for some time as the Deputy Interior Minister and worked for some time in the Ministry of Islamic Guidance. When Ahmadinejad was the Mayor of Tehran, Mashaei became his deputy for social affairs.

Critics say throughout his career since the early 1980s, Mashaei has been working for Iran’s secret police, the Ministry of Intelligence and Security.

The Centre for Dialogue among Civilisations was a key platform created by ex-President Khatami to promote his call for establishing ties with the West.

However, its purpose and influence have dwindled in recent years. Following Ahmadinejad’s ascendency to the Presidency, the centre became a sub-branch of the Islamic Culture and Communications Organisation (ICCO).

The selection of Mashaei as overseer of the Centre for Dialogue among Civilisations brings an end to control of the body by opponents of the hard-line government.

Earlier this year, a senior Iranian cleric allied to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei took a swipe at the notion of dialogue with the West.

“There is no logic to dialogue among civilisations. … Its result is to the benefit of foreign enemies and certain domestic groups”, said Ayatollah Mohammad-Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi, the ultra-conservative ideological mentor of Ahmadinejad.

The radical Islamist cleric holds unusual sway over Iran’s President and the direction of the hard-line government.

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