Middle East News
ANALYSIS: Split between Ahmadinejad and clergy looks permanent
By Farshid Motahari Jun 7, 2011, 15:36 GMT
Tehran - There were times when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had the full backing of the country's clergy, but those times are gone.
Since April he has been involved in a row not only with the clergy but also with the conservative faction. His opponents brand his close aides and advisors as the 'deviant current' and accuse them of undermining the Iranian clerical establishment.
'These aides plan to remove the clerics from power,' Ayatollah Abdol Nabi Namazi, seen as a mouthpiece for Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei Ayatollah Khamenei, has said.
Some of the clergy said that the president had been 'bewitched' by his aides and needed an exorcist.
'That bewitched part, and the need of exorcist. Well, I hope they will present some documents as well,' Ahmadinejad commented sarcastically.
His aides have been accused of undermining the authority of Khamenei, who as supreme leader, has the constitutional right to the final say on all state affairs, including vetoing the president's decisions.
'Actually I prefer to say nothing and keep silent for the sake of national unity,' Ahmadinejad said.
'But what I can say is that I do not approve the ideas of my predecessors, and their criticisms will have no impact on my work. I will go my way, as I have the vote and blessing of the people,' he added.
The row started in April when Ahmadinejad fired his intelligence chief, Heydar Moslehi.
Khamenei promptly reversed the decision. Although Ahmadinejad eventually gave in, his opponents accused him of having done so reluctantly.
The president's remark later that 'the nation needed the leader just as the leader needed the nation,' was interpreted as showing a lack of the total obedience required to the head of state and the constitution.
There were reports that some of Ahmadinejad's aides had been arrested, but no details were disclosed.
There were also reports that Ahmadinejad himself wanted to resign but revised his decision.
'As I have said since my presidency in 2005, I do not agree with the political management so far made in Iran (since 1979) and that my policies are 180 degrees different,' he said.
Ahmadinejad said that he was a president who brought the government to the people and his only aim was to serve the people and at the same time remain modest and honest.
'This is, however, a free country and my opponents are free to express their standpoints, and my government is proud that it is tolerant enough to listen to all standpoints and has no problem with that,' Ahmadinejad said.
The main target of the clergy and the conservatives is the president's top adviser, Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaei, who is also the father-in-law of Ahmadinejad's son.
Mashaei is said to oppose the clergy-dominated framework of the Islamic republic's establishment and to favour a more nationalist approach to running the country.
Because of Ahmadinejad's firm support for Mashaei, the clergy accuse the president of trying to undermine the Islamic principles of the country's ruling system.