The Latest from Iran (29 July): Challenges Outside and Inside the Government
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In a week filled with confusions, intrigues, and confrontations within the Ahmadinejad Government, this may be the most extraordinary story of all.
On Monday afternoon, the pro-Green Movement websiteMowj-e-Sabz announced, “Coup in the Ministry of Intelligence”. While public attention was focused on the President’s firing of his Minister of Intelligence, Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejeie, there was much more happening below the headlines. Two Deputy Ministers and a number of experts — Mowj-e-Sabz claimed more than 20 — had been “forced into retirement”.
The cause? Ministry officials had been told to compile a report, based on files and interviews of detainees, on whether the quest for a “velvet revolution” by outsiders was responsible for post-election conflict. Their investigations produced the answer: No. There was no proof that “foreign” elements had instigated the protests as part of a plan for regime change.
It was an answer that did not satisfy President Ahmadinejad. He dismissed the Vice Ministers of Intelligence and of Counter-Intelligence. According to Mowj-e-Sabz andother press reports, established a parallel service, “Tehran Intelligence”, led by Hojatoleslam Ahmad Salek and Hojatoleslam Hossein Ta’eb, both of whom are affiliated to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Showdown between Khamenei and IRGC?
Who’s really in charge? Is there a confrontation looming between Iran’s supreme leader and the Revolutionary Guard?
By MUHAMMAD SAHIMI in Los Angeles | 28 July 2009
[TEHRAN BUREAU] analysis Two important developments over the past few days suggest that a possible confrontation may be under way between Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Khamenei, and the high command of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).
One development was the order issued by Ayatollah Khamenei overruling Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s appointment of Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei as his First Vice President (Iran’s president has eight vice presidents). The second was the firing of ultra hardliner Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejehei, the Minister of Intelligence.
A reliable source in Tehran told the author that both episodes were meant to be signals by the IRGC’s high command to Ayatollah Khamenei that they were in control, and that he should toe the line — their line. According to the source, Ayatollah’s Khamenei’s order to fire Mashaei was delivered to the Voice and Visage (VaV) of the Islamic Republic (Iran’s national radio and television network) on the day Mashaei was appointed by Ahmadinejad. The VaV was asked to announce the order on national television and radio, but Ezzatollah Zarghami, the director of VaV and a former officer in the IRGC, refused to do so.
As if to make sure that the Ayatollah got the message loud and clear, it took Ahmadinejad one week to relent and go along with the order. And it was only then that the VaV broadcast the Ayatollah’s order. When he did accept the order, Ahmadinejad sent the Supreme Leader a terse and very formal letter, devoid of the usual praises that his past letters to Ayatollah Khamenei have carried. The letter was considered by many supporters of the Ayatollah as a total insult; but also a clear signal. In order to further demonstrate his defiance, Ahmadinejad appointed Mashaei, a close relative and friend, as his chief of staff and special adviser.
According to the source, Ejehei was fired because he was reporting to the Supreme Leader without first letting Ahmadinejad know. He had reportedly said that the Intelligence Ministry had concluded that the accusations by the IRGC high command, that the demonstrations after the election were linked to foreign powers and represented a “velvet revolution,” were baseless. He had also reportedly said that the demonstrations had neither been planned in advance, nor could they have been predicted. Finally, the Intelligence Ministry is said to have reported that Mashaei, as well as Hossein Taeb, a cleric who is the commander of the Basij militia, represented security risks. The report apparently countered all the accusations made by the IRGC high command.
There is a precedent that helps support the theory that Ejehei was ousted for this reason. In the spring of 2008, Mostafa Pourmohammadi, Ahmadinejad’s first Interior Minister, was also fired after he submitted a report to Ayatollah Khamenei about the elections for the 8th Majles (parliament) without Ahmadinejad’s knowledge. In that report, Pourmohammadi reported irregularities committed by Ahmadinejad’s backers. When Ahmadinejad found out about the report, he fired Pourmohammadi almost immediately.
ANALYSIS-Iran turmoil takes new twist as hardliners fall out
Tue Jul 28, 2009 6:23am EDT