Twelve days before Iran’s presidential election, stubborn rumors were making the rounds that two “accidents” which took place Sunday, June 2, were in fact attempts on the lives of outgoing Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and a leading presidential hopeful, Iran’s senior nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili. Both escaped unhurt. The rumors pointed the finger of suspicion at supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei or his underlings possibly acting on their own.
The ayatollah’s insiders are said to fear Ahmadinejad is plotting an emergency for bringing the masses out on the streets in order to force the postponement of the June 14 election. He would then stay on as president until the dust settled.
In the overheated, pre-election atmosphere in Tehran, government circles are extra jittery over the apparently irrepressible wave of Turkish popular dissent against the Islamist government of Tayyip Erdogan. They are concerned lest the tumult spill over into Iran and target the ayatollah’s authority.
Ahmadinejad and a large party of officials were on the way Sunday to inaugurating Iran’s longest tunnel under the Alborz Mountains the northeaster province of Mazandaran, when their helicopter went into a tail spin. The pilot made a safe emergency landing.
The accident could have been genuine: Iran’s air fleet is in a bad state of maintenance because Tehran is unable to get hold of spare parts due to sanctions and a shortage of foreign currency. Replacement parts are either roughly improvised at home or bought from questionable sources in China or the Ukraine.
But the wording of the communiqué released by Ahmadinejad’s office after the event was found suggestive in Gulf capitals and Washington: It was described as “an unspecified accident” rather than a technical breakdown.
The president’s advisers’ suspicions of an attempted assassination were further strengthened when they heard about another accident. This one was not published. Saeed Jalili, Head of the National Security Council, nuclear negotiator and leading presidential candidate, was on his way back from a campaign appearance in the town of Qazvin, when a truck suddenly swerved into the convoy carrying him and party, forcing one of the vehicles to crash into a safety barrier. Four of Jalilee’s aides were injured, two seriously.
Jalilee’s own car was 20 meters away from the crash.
The general view in Tehran is that this “accident” too was deliberate. It was tied to rumors going around the Iranian capital that Jalili and Ahmadinejad had struck a secret deal, which had reached the ears of the ayatollah. The two figures were said to have agreed in quiet meetings that the outgoing president would back Jalili’s run for president. If he won, he would award the post of vice president with special powers to Ahmadinejad or alternatively, to Ahmadinejad’s candidate, his in-law Esfandyar Rahim Mashee, whose candidacy the supreme leader arranged to have disqualified.
It is therefore believed that the order to stage the two accidents came from Khamenei’s office. This time, they were meant as a final warning.
On May 26, debkafile’s Iranian sources reported suspicions in Tehran that Ahmadinejad was plotting to sack Interior Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar to torpedo the election. Those sources added that Khamenei warned the president that if he did not stop his intrigues, he might not survive a “road accident.”
On April 29, the president was detained for several hours and cautioned to stop his maneuvers for derailing the presidential election.
Two weeks ago, he confided to his friends that he has evidence of a conspiracy to assassinate him. Since then, he has stopped making public statements on controversial matters.