Iran: Supreme leader seeks top deputy’s dismissal

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has been flexing his political power since last month's contested election.
Iran’s supreme leader believes the country’s president should dismiss the top vice president, whose recent appointment has drawn criticism from conservatives, semi-official media reported Wednesday.

The semi-official Iranian Students News Agency quoted the first vice speaker of the parliament, Hojatoleslam Seyed Mohammad Aboutorabifard, as saying that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei believes the president’s choice for top deputy, Esfandyar Rahim Mashaie, should be removed. “The president has been advised about this view in a letter,” Aboutorabifard told ISNA, the news agency reported. The semi-official Mehr News Agency also quoted a parliament member, Ahmad Tavakoli, as saying that Khamenei has written an order to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad advising him to remove Mashaie from the post. It was not immediately clear if Ahmadinejad had received the order. The appointment of Mashaie — whose daughter is married to Ahmadinejad’s son — has been controversial because of comments he reportedly made last year, saying that the Iranian people are friends with all people, including Israelis. Critics also found fault with Mashaie for reportedly not leaving an area in Turkey where female dancers were performing. Despite the criticism surrounding the appointment, Ahmadinejad defended Mashaie.

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“Esfandyar Rahim Mashaie is loyal to the revolution and the Velayat [the concept of the supreme leader],” the president said, according to Fars news agency. “He leads a simple life and is a servant of the people. He has been appointed the first vice president and will continue serving,” Ahmadinejad said. 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. Another member of parliament, Aboutoorabi Fard, told ISNA that the president must either fire Mashaie or accept his resignation. The majority of parliament members and “the supreme leader demand this,” he said, according to the news agency. Mojtaba Hashemi Samareh, the president’s senior adviser, told state-run Jam-e-Jam television that there “will be no second thoughts regarding the appointment of Mashaie.” However, later he told Fars news agency that he had been misquoted. He said that his earlier comments had been that “so far there have been no second thoughts” regarding Mashaie, and that did not mean that there wouldn’t be changes later. Mashaie, who is among the Iranian president’s closest confidants, was previously the head of the Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization, Fars reported.