The Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad‘s sponsors, Iran’s fiery Revolutionary Guards, have launched a vigorous inquiry into the persistent rumors going around Tehran that their champion is on a political hit list.
It is no secret that the blabbermouth president has managed to put up many powerful backs at home – not just overseas – in his short tenure. The fact that he represents the Revolutionary Guards elements which persuaded the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to back him for the presidency is a count against him. Certain power-groups in the regime who dislike him intensely fear he may be strong enough to axe them or even lead a Revolutionary Guards military coup to topple the incumbent government.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s Tehran sources report that Ahmadinejad’s unpopularity in some influential circles is no secret, but it is a little-known fact that some are secretly plotting his early demise.
Political assassinations are no rarity in the 26-year old history of Iran’s Islamic revolution – whether by poisoning, road “accidents” or tampering with airplanes.
In 1981, a bomb blew up in the office of prime minister Said Rajai when he was receiving President Ba-honar. Both died in the blast. The “mujahedeen” were held responsible.
That same year, 75 senior officials of the executive committee of the then ruling party, the Islamic Republic Party, were wiped out by a large bomb planted in their conference chamber.
In 1983, the entire Iranian senior military command was liquidated when their flight blew up in mid-air. The Iranian government had learned of a plan drawn up by the military brass to put a stop to the bloody Iran-Iraq war then at its peak. In 1995, a bus carrying 32 Iranian writers and intellectuals crashed mysteriously into a wadi near Tibris, killing them all. They were on their way to a conference in Europe which the ayatollahs did not want them to attend.
Three years later, in 1998, Darioush Forouhar, leader of the Iranian People’s party and his wife Parvaneh were stabbed to death at their home in Tehran by unknown killers.
Assassination in the air
Ahmadinejad is no stranger to hit teams. DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s sources note that in the past he personally led some of these operations in Iran and abroad.
So persistent are the rumors going around Tehran, that the president’s spokesman claimed this week that “a committee has been established to remove the president from office.”
With so much animosity in the air, the all-powerful Ali Khamenei came forward this week to stand up for the president. Monday, November 14, at a meeting of senior officials, he said: “The criticism directed against the new president – and the expectations of him – are exaggerated and unjustified. His government is only two and a half months old,” he pointed out and praised the new government as “blessed and active.”
Nonetheless, many majlis lawmakers of the radical factions, which might be expected to favor the extremist president, continued to attack him for the way he functioned, giving him low marks for ministerial appointments, conduct of state and neglect to combat the pervasive corruption.
They made these complaints publicly. But the parliamentarians’ real grievance, which is voiced only on the quiet, pertains to his arrogance. They complain he comes out with anything that enters is head and plays out any impulse in total disregard of national institutions and norms. The legislature has been getting its own back on the wayward president by rejecting both of his nominations for oil minister, an unprecedented rebuff. Even the extremist newspaper Jomhouri-e Eslami, which represents the views of the hard-line Khamenei, showed its loss of patience with Ahmadinejad when it editorialized this week that the time had come “for deeds rather than empty rhetoric.”
Ressalat, another newspaper approved by the regime was even blunter: “Dear President,” it wrote. “Your 100 days of grace are up. Take advantage of your opportunities because your time is slipping away in a flash.”
Tehran is in crisis over his demand to wipe Israel off the map
A number of parliamentary groups are reported by our Tehran sources to be drawing up a manifesto headed “The president’s operational dysfunction.”
This would be the first step in the legal process of impeachment.
But Ahmadinejad’s is losing favor much too fast for the parliamentary movers to catch up with his critics. His physical eclipse is bruited about as a form of urgent damage control in the following spheres:
1. The president is packing his RG buddies in the most powerful jobs in the republic. They now occupy two-thirds of the cabinet, dozens of diplomatic posts after his shakeup of the foreign service and many provincial governates. Even the radical circle close to Khamenei feels threatened by the preponderance of RG personnel in dominant government positions suspecting fertile ground for a military putsch.
2. Ahmadinejad’s unbridled comments on the need for Israel’s destruction plunged Tehran into a totally unnecessary diplomatic crisis from which its leaders are at a loss to extricate the government. His reckless statement gave the United States and Israel a solid pretext for regime change in Tehran as a follow-up to the US-led coalition’s ouster of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad. Khamenei does not deny that the young president voiced exactly the same sentiments as he himself did a year ago before Jerusalem Day, but for some reason his did not reverberate in the same way.
3. His declarations one Iran’s nuclear program are seen as endangering its future and potentially the cause of irreversible damage. At a closed meeting of the Council for Preserving the Interests of the Regime, former president Hashemi Rafsanjani said this week: “He blabbed again and spouted harmful statements – although he was warned to keep his mouth shut.”
Rafsanjani has the strongest motive of all for wanting to get rid of the new president. He is bitter about his resounding defeat at the hands of the young candidate last August. Ahmadinejad’s departure would result in a new presidential election. Next time, Rafsanjani will not let the prize escape him.
He has a further grudge. Under the heading of the war on corruption, the aides of the man who beat him at the polls are spreading malicious gossip about misdeeds allegedly pursued by the Rafsanjani family, which it cannot be denied is the wealthiest in Iran.
Anathemized by the clergy too
At a meeting of religious leaders in Tehran Wednesday, November 16, Rafsanjani warned Ahmadinejad, without naming names, to stop spreading scandalous lies against him. “Some people,” he said, “have gone on the offensive and are engaged in settling scores with and ostracizing others – going so far as to malign high-ranking members of the regime with a view to getting them expelled.”
If this goes on, he said, the Islamic Republic will be in trouble. In his view, the prospect of military action against Iran had increased, exacerbated by the internal crisis.
Three days earlier, the former president openly cautioned Ahmadinejad to stop making statements without prior consultation and authorization from the competent quarters.
Rafsanjani reported a circular that had been passed around forbidding senior officials to go around issuing disadvantageous statements which the president had omitted to heed.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s sources disclose that a secret meeting took place a few days ago between Rafsanjani’s messengers and the deputy counter-espionage staff of the Revolutionary Guards, Brigadier Mohammad Akhundi.
Ahmadenijed’s people are trying to find out what was said in that conversation.
Another group with an interest in the young president’s elimination is the clergy. They are irritated by his undercover ties with an ultra-radical cult called “The Hojjatieh”. This cult objects to any form of permissiveness in Islamic society and advocates forcing more stringent religious decrees on the population so as to hasten the coming of the Emam-e Zaman, the designated messiah.
Several Hojjatieh adherents have already disappeared in mysterious circumstances.
Neither would The Mohammadis, a group inside the Iranian intelligence ministry, be averse to the president’s liquidation after he robbed them of most key government positions they formerly held.
This group which is led by Hossein Moussavian Shirazi has much in common with Rafsanjani. Its members would like to see him in the presidency, holding he would be better for the national interest and look after the security and intelligence departments.
It is hard to say if the plans for the troublesome president’s elimination have advanced from talk to active preparations, but in Iran, the distance between them tends to be short.