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Ahmadinejad, Khamenei Reported at Odds over Intel Chief's Resignation

by MUHAMMAD SAHIMI in Los Angeles

18 Apr 2011 03:30Comments
MoslehiKhamenei.jpgPresident accepts resignation he may have sought. Supreme Leader reportedly demands minister remain in post.

[ dispatch ] Minister of Intelligence Heydar Moslehi has tendered his resignation, according to IRNA, Iran's official news agency. The resignation was reportedly accepted by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Raja News, a hardline website that supports Ahmadinejad, reported that the president then appointed Moslehi as his adviser on security matters.

There are indications that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who praised Moslehi during a March 3 visit to the Ministry of Intelligence, may be deeply at odds with Ahmadinejad over this matter. According to the Associated Press, a few hours after the IRNA report appeared, "several semiofficial news agencies, including Fars, said Khamenei opposed the resignation and said that Moslehi will continue in the post, which has played a key role in the crackdown on [the] opposition following Ahmadinejad's disputed re-election in 2009."

IRNA subsequently referred to the report of Khamenei's order as a "claim by Fars," the news agency run by the intelligence unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. IRNA's head, Ali Akbar Javanfekr, is a close Ahmadinejad ally. He created controversy last week when he said that not everything Khamenei utters should be followed. Some of the Supreme Leader's declarations, he opined, were mere advisories, and others orders. As an example of an advisory statement, Javanfekr cited Khamenei's order to remove Ahmadinejad confidant Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei from the post of first vice president in August 2009.

Sunday night, Tehran time, the Voice and Visage of the Islamic Republic -- the national network of television and radio channels -- failed to report on Moslehi's resignation, let alone Ahmadinejad's and Khamenei's apparently very different responses to it. Neither the news program at 10:00 p.m. nor the midnight broadcast mentioned anything about the affair. Ezzatollah Zarghami, head of the Voice and Visage, is another ally of the president's.

A few hours before the announcement that Ahmadinejad had accepted Moslehi's resignation, Mashaei, the president's chief of staff, criticized the intelligence minister without directly naming him. Mashaei was quoted as saying, "Our organs responsible [for intelligence issues] must correct their weaknesses on intelligence about the developments in the region as soon as possible, because lack of information and accurate analysis on every [uprising in the] nation and its relation with the grand plans of those who want to control the region may cause errors in our positions and decisions regarding the region."

Jahan News, a website run by hardliner Alireza Zakani, reported that on Sunday morning Hossein Abdollahi, deputy minister of intelligence for planning and budget, had been fired by Moslehi. Abdollahi is close to Mashaei, who was apparently angered by the move. (Mashregh News, a website close to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, reports that Moslehi fired not one but two of his deputies.) There have been other reports of increasing tension between Moslehi on the one hand, and Ahmadinejad and Mashaei on the other. According to Jahan, Moslehi did not want to meet the same fate as Mostafa Pourmohammadi, Ahmadinejad's first interior minister, whom the president abruptly fired in early 2008. Moslehi resigned, by Jahan's account, to preempt the president and his chief of staff.

Khabar Online, a website close to Majles Speaker Ali Larijani, reported that Moslehi had said that his ministry had referred some people to the judiciary for their "unlawful actions by rouge elements" and "insulting some officials or their relatives." The report presumably refers to the attacks by Ahmadinejad allies on Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and his daughter, Faezeh Hashemi. While Khabar did not explicitly state that Moslehi's comments and his sudden resignation are related, the fact that the two reports are posted together suggests the belief that there is such a connection.

Two news sources are claiming that Moslehi actually tendered his resignation some time in the past. Mehr, the news agency run by the Organization for Islamic Propaganda, reports that the intelligence minister resigned a while ago, but that his resignation was set aside by Ahmadinejad until he finally decided to accept it on Sunday. Alef, a website run by conservative Majles deputy and Ahmadinejad critic Ahmad Tavakoli, reported that Moslehi's previous resignation was a distinct matter and that it was, like the latest one, accepted by Ahmadinejad, but opposed by Khamenei. No letter of resignation by Moslehi yet been made public.

Moslehi's resignation under pressure and the Supreme Leader's overruling of it represents another facet of the behind-the-scenes power struggle pitting Ahmadinejad, Mashaei, and their supporters against Khamenei and his.

Copyright © 2011 Tehran Bureau

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