Spiritual ruler Khamenei clips Ahmadinejad’s wings
In a sudden about-turn, Iran released five British yachtsmen Wednesday, Dec. 2, a week after their capture off the Persian Gulf island of Sirri. The move announced by Tehran’s state media early Wednesday even took London by surprise.
They were towed into international waters and arrived in Dubai later that afternoon.
debkafile‘s Iranian sources report that this was one of the few instances in which Iran’s spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei overruled president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who had clearly intended to put the five Britons on trial for espionage. The president’s chief of staff Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaie announced ominously Tuesday: “The judiciary will decide about the five… but naturally Iran will take hard and serious measures if we find out they had evil intentions.”
Their yacht was seized by Revolutionary Guards on Nov. 25, during an Iranian military test of their nuclear sites air defenses. The timing alone favored an allegation of spying.
The abrupt reversal could only have been instigated by the president’s superior who must have overruled him with a direct personal order to free the five Britons at once.
Since the post-election protests of June and during Iran’s nuclear negotiations with the six world powers, Khamenei gave Ahmadinejad his head. The case of the British yachtsmen is the first time he has drawn a line. It remains to be seen whether this move was part of an internal power struggle or a case of the supreme ruler stepping in to lower the heat of the crisis besetting Iran’s relations with the United States and its allies by clipping the president’s wings on a matter which has no bearing on the tempo of Iran’s progress toward developing a nuclear weapon.