Mahmoud's friends, enemies and the iditots in between
31 Jul 2009 23:12
By Hana H. in Tehran | 31 July 2009
Comment After the post-election unrest in Iran, one man stood by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. This man did all the dirty work, made all the veiled and not-so-veiled threats and sent certain parties the necessary warnings. This man gave orders for arrests and eliminations; he was the face on television telling the nation that his staff had uncovered a "velvet revolution," assuring the ignorant that his agents would diligently uncover plots before they hatch and that they would restore calm. This one man who stood by Mahmoud's side through thick and thin was none other than intelligence minister Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei.
They say that it is good for politicians to know their friends and their enemies and the idiots in between who will do their bidding when push comes to shove. However, miscalculating where the loyalty of such people lies can have serious repercussions. And Mahmoud miscalculated if he thought Ejei was ready to transfer his allegiance from the Supreme Leader.
After infuriating almost every politician in the country and then refusing to allow many qualified officials to join his government, the out-of-favor Iranian president decided it would be nicer to have family and trusted friends around. In a bold move, he appointed Esfandiar Rahim Mashai, his son's father-in-law, as his first vice president.
In doing so, however, Mahmoud may have alienated his last dependable support group, Iran's hardliners, who despise Mashai for his un-Islamic and very un-revolutionary remarks and actions. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei stepped in for damage control, but headstrong Mahmoud refused to budge, ignoring the Leader's handwritten order for a week until it was made public. Mahmoud's refusal to obey Khamenei's order to remove Mashai from his second in command was based on the argument that if they knew his VP better, they would pat him on the back for his wise selection.
Mashai, who had better judgement than Mahmoud, and well aware that opposing the supreme leader would spell his doom, stepped down himself. Still Mahmoud was reluctant to let his confidant easily slip away and appointed him as the head of the presidential office, instead.
Mahmoud's insistence on Mashai's appointment has come at a price. During a cabinet meeting, three of his high-ranking ministers -- including Ejei -- reportedly stood up to Mahmoud and questioned his authority.
Hotheaded Mahmoud fired all three, not realizing or indifferent to the fact that he was already in trouble with the law for removing half of his ministers from office during the four years of his presidency. Under the Iranian Constitution, one more minister and he would be left at the mercy of the parliament, the Majlis.
After cooling off, and with a little help, Mahmoud realized the severity of the situation. With only a few days to his second inauguration and the apparent distaste of most lawmakers for the president, the chances of receiving a Majlis vote of no confidence were much higher than ever before.
Mahmoud frantically revoked his decision, and in a tactical ploy aimed at scoring points with the people and deceiving them into believing that he was on their side settled for dismissing only Ejei. A firm believer in his own intelligence, Mahmoud then appointed an acting intelligence minister and proclaimed himself caretaker minister.
To survive in Iranian politics, one must have unswerving loyalty to the Leadership. When one's loyalty can be questioned, it usually means the end of a politician's career. Mahmoud, who has been flirting with political suicide for some time, is now on the precipice. His fellow Principlists are now openly accusing him of disloyalty and mocking his public shows of enslavement to the Supreme Leader.
Ironically, even his staunchest supporters, like the Ansar Hezbollah, have threatened him with demanding their votes back and have gone so far as to accuse him of having greater love for Mashai than the Leader. All there is left to see is whether the 'just jurisprudent' will step in to save his pawn or watch him booed off stage and taken to the stake kicking and screaming.
Copyright (c) 2009 Tehran Bureau