Reports from Iranian sources with links to Western media appeared this week claiming that Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was taken into custody by a Revolutionary Guards Intelligence unit squad on April 29 and held for several hours.
On his way to Tehran’s 26th international book fair Monday, April 29, he is said to have been informed that he was wanted urgently at the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s office. On his way there, the president’s convoy was detached and steered in a different direction by three cars which entered the route. Ahmadinejad found himself taken to a secret Foreign Ministry building controlled by the Revolutionary Guards intelligence unit. Ahmadinejad was then bundled into an office belonging to Hossein Taeb, the head of the Guards’ intelligence and reportedly grilled by Taeb, Asghar Hejazi, head of intelligence at the supreme leader’s office; Mojtaba Khamenei, the supreme leader’s son; and Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei, the attorney general. They are said to have given him an ultimatum to back down from his accusations against regime officials before releasing him.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s Iranian sources cast doubts on this tale. Something appears to have happened, but it never went so far as his detention.
Whatever did, it occurred less than two months before Iran’s June 24 presidential election amid a vicious campaign of reciprocal threats and mudslinging between the rival camps of Ayatollah Khamenei and outgoing President Ahmadinejad and a week before candidates were due to register.
The president “is driving the supreme leader mad”
More than one attempt has been made to cow Ahmadinejad into dropping his sponsorship of the candidacy of Esfandyar Rahim Mashee, close friend, adviser and the father of his daughter-in-law – a man detested by the supreme leader. He has also been warned to abandon his smear campaign against prominent enemies.
The president took this campaign to its outer limit on April 21 when he accused Khamenei before a large audience of plotting his assassination. DEBKA-Net-Weekly's Iranian sources learned that before he was publicly indicted in this way, Khamenei had secretly directed his advisers to draw up the script for Ahmadienjad’s “dignified” elimination if he continued to sow mayhem in the country.
The Iranian president is notorious for occasional delusional seizures like the vision he had of a halo around his head when he addressed the UN General Assembly.
But this time he got it right. Back in March, Revolutionary Guard commanders warned that a political assassination was in the works in the run-up to the presidential election.
Khamenei's followers are constantly braced for Ahmadinejad’s surprises. They believe him capable of suddenly stepping down or even canceling the presidential election. His critics are relentless.
The senior ayatollah Javadi Amoli has said “the president’s lies are getting the country into serious trouble." Gholam-Ali Haddad Adel, a serious presidential candidate and relative of Khamenei, said that "with his crazy words and actions, Ahmadinejad is driving the Supreme Leader mad."
What has Ahmadinejad done with the multibillion oil revenues?
The most damaging criticism leveled against the president came from Assadollah Asgar-Ovladi, head of the chamber of commerce and one of the most influential figures in the economy. He attributed the disastrous and chaotic state of the Iranian economy to presidential mismanagement.
On Monday, April 22, Asgar-Ovladi commented: "He [Ahmadinejad] promised to distribute oil revenues among the citizenry but instead he even stole their bread.”
Although Ahmadinejad hands out a monthly subsidy of 45,000 toman to each citizen, prices have soared to 100,000 toman per month. Asgar-Ovladi said that Iran earned $700 billion from oil sales in the eight years of Ahmadinejad's tenure. “Where’s that money?” he asked.
Iran appears to be on the brink of economic collapse and political chaos, gradually paralyzed by international sanctions.
The poor cannot afford even to buy enough bread, their basic food, to feed their families, and its price continues to rise along with other basic products including medicines. Ahmadinejad's economic policy of canceling subsidies is held responsible for wrecking price stability.
Is the regime in Tehran in danger of falling? DEBKA-Net-Weekly's Iranian experts say no. Rivalries will not go past a safe point and the Iranian people may be hungry but not yet ready for revolution.
Will a new president herald change in Iran’s foreign or nuclear policy? Most unlikely: Khamenei is removing all bars to the election of the candidate most loyal to himself.
In the meantime, it suits the supreme leader’s book to pin the blame for all Iran’s ills on the recalcitrant president and use him as the national whipping boy.