Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the driving force behind Iran's nuclear program and the most vocal of Israel's enemies, is on his last legs as president. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has stripped him of most of his powers and shut the door against his having any political future.
debkafile's Iranian sources report his loyalists have been deserting him in droves since he went to New York to deliver an address to the UN General Assembly on Sept. 23. The Supreme Leader used his absence for the coup de grace: The removal of the president's loyalists from the list of 4,000 contenders running for seats in parliament (the Majlis) next March.
That was easily arranged: Khameini handed his orders to Ayatollah Mohammad Kani, head of the Assembly of Experts, which In the Islamic Republic of Iran is responsible for screening all contenders for office. He was told to disqualify all the president's associates. So, in the next Majlis, Ahmadinejad will be shorn of a loyal faction and any buddies sticking to him when his second presidential term runs out in May 2013 will be out of a job.
The Supreme Ruler degraded the president very publicly with one humiliation after another.
He waited for Ahmadinejad to go on the air in a US NBC interview on Sept. 13 to promise the release of Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer, the two American hikers convicted of spying, before cutting him down by suspending their release until the Iranian president was being booed by protesters in New York for reneging on his promise.
Tehran's political, religious and military insiders were not surprised by his downfall, our Iranian sources report. For some time he had been getting too big for his boots, accumulating more powers than any president before him and only getting away with it so long as he was Khamenei's fair-haired boy.
But then, the favorite, whose election in 2005 and reelection in 2009, Khamenei engineered at the cost of violent anti-government protests in Tehran, rewarded him with ingratitude. He increasingly flouted the master and in some cases began chipping away at his authority – until Khamenei had had enough and decided to reel him in.
At the last minute, he cancelled a live Ahmadinejad interview on Iran's second television network wide publicized for the eve of his departure to the United Nations.
The affronts followed him home to Tehran, where waiting for him were serious criminal charges linking his name to the disappearance of three billion dollars from Iranian banks. The name of the embezzler has not been released but our sources in Tehran reveal him as Amir Mansour Arya, an entrepreneur who started a business five years ago with Ahmadinejad’s encouragement and whose fortune grew a thousand fold within a suspiciously short time.
Arya is accused of using his presidential connections to secure multi-billion dollar loans from Iranian banks and then spiriting large sums out of the country.
Ahmadinejad denies any complicity in the crime. He tried fighting back by threatening to publish within 15 days "dozens of names" of rivals he claims are guilty of financial crimes. The deadline came and went without publication.
The betting in Tehran is that the Supreme Leader will not actually sack Ahmadinejad but let him last out his term as yesterday's man, lame duck in political isolation.
debkafile's Iranian sources: Two frontrunners for future president most mentioned recently are two hardliners, Majils (legislature) Speaker Ali Larijani, a former senior nuclear negotiator with the West, and ex-foreign minister Ali Akhbar Veliyati, who is a member of Khamenei's kitchen cabinet as senior adviser on international relations.