Controversial figure in Iran moved from one key post into another

Esfandyar Rahim Mashaie, left, resigned from key post of first vice president on Friday.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has appointed Esfandyar Rahim Mashaie as his adviser, a day after the controversial political figure resigned as first vice president, Iran’s state-run news agency reported on Saturday.

Ahmadinejad praised Mashaie as a pious, trustworthy, and self-sacrificing human being in his letter of appointment, the IRNA report stated. It comes after Iran’s Supreme Leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordered Ahmadinejad to nullify Mashaie’s appointment to the key post of first vice president. Mashaie announced he would resign from the position on Friday. Later that day, Ahmadinejad appointed his long-time friend and the father-in-law of his son as his presidential adviser and head of his bureau. Mashaie made a lot of enemies among Iran’s fundamentalists when he reportedly said last year that the Iranian people are friends with all people, including Israelis. He was also criticized for attending a ceremony in Turkey where women danced on stage. In Iran, women are forbidden to dance in public and Iranian officials are expected to leave when such entertainment is provided for them while they are visiting abroad.

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Mashaie’s daughter is married to Ahmadinejad’s son, and the president has defended Mashaie despite the criticism. Mashaie is among the Iranian president’s closest confidants, and was previously the head of the Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization, Fars reported. Although there are 12 vice presidents in Iran, the first vice president is the only one who can lead a Cabinet meeting if Ahmadinejad is unable to do so.