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Mojtaba Vahedi: Ahmadinejad-Khamenei Rift Widening

by TARA MAHTAFAR in Washington, D.C.

14 Mar 2010 20:1128 Comments

AHMADINEJAD-KHAMENEI5.jpgA senior aide to opposition cleric Mehdi Karroubi said today that Iran's supreme leader has cooled his support for president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Mojtaba Vahedi, chief of staff to Mehdi Karroubi since 1982, and editor-in-chief of reformist newspaper Aftab Yazd until January 2010 when he resigned to keep the newspaper from being closed down, spoke to journalists at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on Friday. Later, he met with a smaller group of participants.

Vahedi asked that his comments not be attributed to Karroubi.

"The supreme leader's speeches from June to December of last year strongly endorsed Ahmadinejad. But since Ashura, Ayatollah Khamenei has never once mentioned Ahmadinejad's name in any public address," he said.

He added that Ahmadinejad recently appealed to the supreme leader to pressure Majlis, the Iranian parliament, to push through legislation for targeted subsidies, but was coldly rebuffed.

"Over the past nine months, we've seen Mr. Khamenei go from praise and support to silence to refusal to back the president," said the former Islamic Republic official, who recently moved to Washington.

The withdrawal of the supreme leader's backing of the president is likely to intensify in response to acts of defiance by Ahmadinejad, who considers himself to be the supreme leader's equal -- not his subordinate, Mr. Karroubi's aide explained.

"When Mr. Khamenei demanded the removal of Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaei from the post of first vice president, Ahmadinejad allowed a full week to pass before Mashaei resigned. Ahmadinejad then wrote to the supreme leader and signed off the letter [with the following innuendo]: 'May the days of your preeminence last' [ayaam ezzat mostadam]. This was clearly intended as a taunt and threat," he added.

Asked why he believed the Green Movement leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Karroubi had not yet been arrested, Vahedi replied that such a move would serve to empower the president. "Mr. Khamenei knows that the blame for Mousavi and Karroubi's arrests would rest directly with him. The supreme leader does not want to crush the Green movement completely, because the only winner standing will be Ahmadinejad," he opined.

Regarding the allegiances of the powerful Revolutionary Guard (IRGC), Karroubi's aide stressed that the paramilitary organization was not a monolithic entity but was split into various factions. "We should not speak of 'the Guard,' but rather of Guardsmen," he said. "Some are loyal to Khamenei, some to Ahmadinejad, and some to Rezai," he added, referring to former IRGC commander Mohsen Rezaei.

Carnegie's Karim Sadjadpour asked his guest speaker about the goals and future of the opposition Green Movement.

"The end goal is to have transparent, free and fair elections ... once that happens, you can be certain the Iranian people will elect [a president] who will secure peaceful and friendly relations with the world," he said.

On the subject of the potential efficacy of sanctions, Vahedi recommended the use of 'smart sanctions' -- targeted financial sanctions against members of the Revolutionary Guard. "For such sanctions to be truly 'smart,' we need only to look at the multitude of companies set up in Dubai in the past 3-5 years," he said, hinting that much of import traffic to Iran from the UAE happened under the auspices of the Guards.

He went on to say that those in the United States opposed to a gasoline embargo worry that tougher sanctions will hurt ordinary Iranians or provide Iran's government with an excuse to shift the blame for the country's deep economic recession from their own mismanagement to West-imposed sanctions.

But the Iranian government is "already using this pretext," he said. "As an Iranian, I'd hate to see our citizens suffer. But even if they are hurt in the short term, whatever shortens the life of this government is in the interests of the [Iranian] people."

Regarding U.S. policy on Iran, Vahedi said that the Obama administration's focus on the nuclear issue, at the expense of ignoring Iran's human rights violations, is "exactly what Ahmadinejad wants."

"If the U.S. reverses this approach and focuses on pressuring Iran for its human rights abuses ... this is what the Iranian government fears most," he said.

Iran's hardline rulers will not back down from the nuclear confrontation with the West, he added. "The nuclear issue will be resolved when Iranian people hold free and fair elections," he said.

The long-time Karroubi aide stressed that U.S. support would not taint the opposition because Iranian state media levels charges of foreign-backed plots for regime change "regardless of whether the U.S. actually does or does not voice support for the Green Movement."

"Ahmadinejad wants to project [the impression] that he enjoys international support, and the silence of world powers [on human rights issues] bolsters this image of support," he said. "It will have an important psychological impact for the Iranian people to know that the U.S. and the international community do not condone the Iranian regime's human rights violations."

Copyright © 2010 Tehran Bureau

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And who is this mystery man that works behind chadors?

Bahramerad / March 13, 2010 4:38 AM

What better way to remain anonymous than to speak publicly to a gathering of journalists at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace!?

If the story is true, IRI can easily identify the individual. So apparently, it is only us plebes who must remain in the dark about the annointed Green messenger whose slickly-timed sanctions spiel we are being asked to swallow.

And do ponder his vacuous logic that: "U.S. support would not taint the opposition because Iranian state media levels charges of foreign-backed plots for regime change regardless of whether the U.S. actually does or does not voice support for the Green Movement." This is akin to arguing that if people falsely accuse you as a paedophile, then you have nothing to lose and should just as well proceed to molest a kid or two!

Tara, some in the readership of TehranBureau are wise to the wicked ways of US media and think tanks.

Unless the individual is identified and his ties to Karroubi established beyond doubt, this story will be classified by yours truly as a vintage disinformation plant of the Judith Miller/Michael Gordon variety.

Ali from Tehran / March 13, 2010 7:01 AM

More like a burkha, at least with a chador you can see a face!

rezvan / March 13, 2010 4:19 PM

so much not adding up in this intriguing story. Recall too that Carnegie & KS hosted Makmalbaf back in November -- when he was (dubiously) portraying himself as "the spokesman for the greens."

Curiously, Enduring America is hinting now, it seems, that the speaker was former culture minister Mohajerani. (who had spoken to WINEP the previous month -- and had the audacity to not tell them what they wanted to hear.) I'm not convinced.

doubtful / March 13, 2010 7:46 PM

[...he said. "As an Iranian, I'd hate to see our citizens suffer. But even if they are hurt in the short term, whatever shortens the life of this government is in the interests of the [Iranian] people."...]

The life of this government is three more years. So, what does "in the short term" mean?! It must be that the mystery person is not talking about the government but rather the regime - i.e. "regime change"! Now that is a novel idea we haven't heard of before!

Mr Karoubi's mystery representative mentioning such a significant change of position for Mr. Karoubi, through Mr. Sadjadpour, and reported by Mahtafar. Why should I be skeptical?!

jay / March 13, 2010 8:25 PM

Worse...even worse...then, collapse

Whats happening here is the sacrifice your loyalists first, part.

When these regimes start killing their own; it means they will start killing everyone...then finally collapse.

The Shah served up Hoveyda, Savak leaders, and at least half dozen Generals/Minsters...then slaughtered hundreds; all to collpase shortly thereafter.

Post Tianamen China, North Korea never kill their own. They hunker down, eat cake, and starve the people.

But, Iranians are too jealous. Amendijad is pissed that Khameinei gets better trout and caviar than his canned crap, so he's plotting...

Their hangings will make Saddam's peanut gallery gallows look like a side show

Anonymous / March 14, 2010 1:33 AM

See link @ 01:25

Shah arrests hundreds of his own...


Lets hope these mullahs do the same

We dont need a list...Google has the Members of all the Councils for hte hangman

Anonymous / March 14, 2010 1:50 AM

Does this mystery man have a name or is this just more of Mahtafar's very questionable "reporting"?

Houshang / March 14, 2010 2:10 AM

Well, this shows that this story az asl o asas moshkel dareh (has problems from the very core). Barbara Slavin quoting it or not doesn't fix the problem, and given her position, she'd jump at the chance to quote something like this. But the problem is that nobody has been aware of Karoubi's shift to such a hawkish position, and to make claims of being a "representative" has proven problematic from the very start of the post-election era, with numerous very questionable individuals claiming to "represent" Mousavi, Karoubi, the green movement, etc, etc.

Houshang / March 14, 2010 3:41 AM

Ahmadinijad has been and always will be expendable.I am surprised that anyone would still doubt who calls the shots after all that has happened. The idea that the "supreme" leader is not actually responsible for the course of events of the last decade is a fanciful one when not too long ago 70 million people used to hang on to his every cryptic word. Is the source a real one? It doesn't make much difference to the thousands awaiting their fate in Irans world-famous prisons.It also makes little difference to those whose fate has already been decided.

pirooz / March 14, 2010 4:11 AM

FP also writes in support of what neocons got right, in particular, about Iran!

[ http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/03/11/what_the_neocons_got_right ]

Quoting FP adds more skepticism, not credibility!
Add to it:
1) all the completely baseless stories written/presented by NYT, WashPo, NPR, FOX, BosGlo,... just in the last ten years,
2) all the aides that have turned out to be NOT(!), and
3) the repeated statements of Mousavi and Karroubi that they have no "outside" representatives

My guess is that the mystery person knows where the Nigerian yellow cake is!

jay / March 14, 2010 7:55 AM

while western commentators were busy speculating and second-guessing, iranians over at Balatarin figured out who it was. sharp folk.

nehzat sabz / March 14, 2010 7:46 PM

The BBC video quotes Ibrahim Yazdi: "In 1978 there was a network of 180,000 Mullahs in Iran"

Until the Greens create a network of similar size; nothing will happen.

The CIA will tell you this is not hard: Pay the top $1000/monh and the bottom $10/week...and they will show up.

Anonymous / March 14, 2010 8:25 PM

I think the wording senior aid can be very misleading, Mr Vahedi , as far as I know had no official position in Karoubi's campaign during the election. The only official aid Karoubi had outside Iran was Mr.Mohajerani , now a person like that would be considered "senior aid" , similarly Behrooz Afkhami, who is currently in Toronto, has been a close associate of Mr. Karoubi for the past 12 years and is significantly closer to him than Mr. Vahedi has been. Mr. Vahedi was actually the editor of reformist newspaper Aftab Yazd until a few months ago when he resigned. Either way my understanding is that Mr Vahedi has spoken his own views on sanctions which is currently in conflict with the official position of Mr. Karoubi and Mr. Mousavi.

In any case, Tehran Bureau's use of the term "senior aid" or implying that Mr Vahedi is speaking on behalf of Mr karboubi does not seem justifiable.

Amir Arsalan / March 14, 2010 11:28 PM

And if you believe that you will also believe that cows can fly over the moon. Yet again another dog and pony show by this anti-Iranian regime.

Shahriar Iran Zamin / March 14, 2010 11:33 PM

Barbara Slavin also quoted him that day, referring to him as a "top aide to Mehdi Karroubi": http://mideast.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2010/03/13/iranian_new_years_holiday_pre sents_dilemma_for_obama.

Anonymous / March 14, 2010 11:51 PM

Some Iranian activists/pundits abroad naively assume that the West's current interest in Greens advocating sanctions is based on a selfless desire to help democracy in Iran.

They are basking in the attention lavished on them in high-powered seminars and luncheons, and assume that the West will continue to seek and defer to their judgement on what sanctions should be applied, against whom, and even when they should be lifted.

But once the impression is created that the sanctions have 'Green' backing and legitimacy, and after the process is triggered and gets underway, its course and tempo will be set by the strongest lobbies and interest groups in the West.

Egged on by Clinton and Blair, the 90s Iraqi sanctions regime became so stringent that the range of barred items grew to cover pencils, water purification systems and even antibiotics.

Zealous UN export control officials discovered the graphite in pencils could be used to make bombs, and learned that water purifiers and antibiotics could be utilized in bio-weapons facilities!

Millions of Iraqis lost their lives from lack of nutrition and sanitation, literacy and health standards plumetted, and the middle class was decimated.

Do those Iranians who advocate sanctions and act as 'native informants' legitimizing this concept for their Western hosts, also have the means to temper the beast they are helping to unleash?

Ali from Tehran / March 15, 2010 1:57 AM

if guys like makmalbaf pose as 'green' spokesmen, that has nothing to do with the fact that mousavi and karroubi DO have a cadre of top aides and advisors that are -- just that.

Maziar Irani / March 15, 2010 2:19 AM

For Attn. of Amir Arsalan

This is very good that you are so sensitive to Mr. Karoobi , but I think you have not enough information about Karoobi and his aids.Thus, I recomend you go to SAHAMNEWS (The formal site for Karoobi's party). You can find an article there with the topic of "WHAT KAROOBI SAID ,WHAT FARSNEWS WROTE".This article was released at 6th Bahman.There, Mr.Vahedi has been introduced as Mr.Karroubi's adviser.

Hassan / March 15, 2010 6:58 AM

Dear Ali from Tehran,

Why are you using the example of a paedophile to compare the Green Movement with? You are degrading brave and righteous Iranians to the level of a sick and deluded criminal. The only thing you have proven is your animosity towards the movement.

Pak / March 15, 2010 8:36 AM


Thanks for your comment. Yes, I am fully aware of the article you mentioned. In fact, if I'm not mistaken, this was the first time Vahedi was broadly noted as Karoubi's aide. But, as far as I know he had no official position in the Karoubi campaign during the election, unlike Mohajerani for example. That is enough for me to indicate that he was not a "senior" aid and it is the use of this term which I took issue with.

Amir Arsalan / March 16, 2010 6:42 AM

Calling Vahedi a senior aide to Karroubi is a stretch at best, and a terrible mistake at worst, and for several good reasons:

First, Vahedi was the editor of Aftab-e Yazd that is the mouthpiece of the Association of Combatant Clerics, which Karroubi left in 2005 and never rejoined.

Second, the ACC supported Mousavi, not Karroubi in the last election.

Third, Karroubi's aides and advisors, in addition to his sons, are Karbaschi, Alviri, Mohajerani, Montajab Nia and Gerami Moghaddam. Vahedi has never been an advisor to Karroubi.

Vahedi is claiming so because he wants to endear himself to Washington. I am amazed at how, all of a suddent, he resigned from AY, 2 months later arrived in Washington, went to CEIP, and supported smart sanctions, an oxymoron term. How is he going to support himself? By joining the WINEP, AEI, NED, or what?

He does not realize, or does not care, that his words will be used by the Administration and the neocons to justify crippling sanction - economic warfare - on the Iranian people that may eventually lead to a bloody military war.

And, given its credibility, Tehran Bureau should be far more cautious and careful in labeling such people as senior aide to this or that. TB may be used without knowing it, just as the New York Times was used for invading Iraq.

George / March 16, 2010 9:11 AM

Ali from Tehran
The statement "Over the past nine months, we've seen Mr. Khamenei go from praise and support to silence to refusal to back the president," said the former Islamic Republic official, who recently moved to Washington" can be interpreted two ways either, is coming from the same person Mojtaba Vahedi or is from another guy, but not necessarily he is speaking at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on Friday.

But I agree last 50 years no government has ever been toppled by a sanction alone

arash / March 16, 2010 11:02 AM

Dear Pak,

Please read my previous post again over an extremely mild cup of coffee. It should become clear to you that I am not disparaging the Green Movement.

I am challenging the warped reasoning Mr. Vahedi has allegedly deployed to canvass for US political support.

My point is that if your adversary falsely charges you with a vice (US political backing), it does not, ipso facto, give you license to succumb to the temptations of that vice.

When mass protest erupted in the aftermath of the rigged elections, IRI instinctively labeled the movement as US-inspired, a charge so comical and at odds with observable reality that few intelligent Iranians took it seriously.

Now, we see a daily procession of putative or actual Green luminaries, plus a smattering of opportunists and pretenders, all breathtakingly ignorant or dismissive of the deep historical stigma of foreign interference, going cap-in-hand to the Great White Father in Washington, seeking political support, and lending solid credence to IRI's accusations.

Ali from Tehran / March 16, 2010 7:48 PM

Dear George,

Don't forget FDD (Foundation for the Defence of Democracies), JINSA (Jewish Institute of National Security Affairs), MEF (Middle East Forum), UANI (United Against Nuclear Iran), CPD (Committee on the Present Danger), Heritage Foundation, Hoover Institute, ...

There is no dearth of job opportunities in Zionist and neocon advocacy think-tanks for native informants whose talking points can be bent to their purpose.

The motives of such individuals for approaching the US are beyond me. In a previous post on a different TehranBureau article, I pondered three alternatives:


Is it for purely mercenary reasons, receiving a sinecure, fame and access to the corridors of Western power, in return for acting as native informant, much like their Arab counterparts, Walid Phares, Kanan Makiya and Fouad Ajami?

Or do they genuinely host a Manichean worldview, believing that because IRI is so bad, its most implacable and aggressive foreign enemies must therefore be the apotheosis of good (div cho biroon ravad fereshteh dar ayad, MkII)?

Or finally, do they hope to harness Western power to serve their own ends, manipulating it rather than being manipulated by it, and discharging it from duty once their personally desired outcome is achieved, as Ahmed Chalabi tried to do?


My guess is that most of these native informants do indeed suffer from a Manichean worldview, incapable of grasping that the adversaries of IRI also act on rapacious and predatory motives, despite their siren songs about democracy and human rights.

But it is early days for Mr. Vahedi, and we should perhaps reserve judgement until his ideology, motives and tactics become clearer.

His views on sanctions and US govt. backing may have been skewed by slanted or wishful reporting.

Ali from Tehran / March 16, 2010 8:37 PM

Ali from Tehran: Why do you assume that people, Iranian or otherwise are stupid and don't know how the game is played?? Stop your condescending pontifications and BOlshevik rhetoric. You have nothing new or original to offer. All you do is repeat Soviet style talking points of cold war era...Toudehi much??

march16 / March 16, 2010 11:13 PM

\March16 (rhymes with 'vent your spleen').

Sorry, Master.

I was responding to George, and didn't know Master was listening in and ruining his delicate constitution.

Please don't have a heart attack.

I'll be off to the collective now.


Ali from Tehran / March 17, 2010 5:22 AM

Thank you for dropping the chador from this guy's body ! --- Rather than illuminating something interesting - you've shown us the ugly body of another wannabe nobody !,

The GREEN shoots are bereft of anything resembling genuine identities worthy of consideration.

Bahramerad / March 17, 2010 4:02 PM