Many critics say a number of personnel changes by Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad have to do with the growing influence of one of his
closest aides, Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaei.
As a loyal follower of Iran's hard-line President Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad, the young head of the National Youth Organization had
every reason to expect his string of high-profile jobs would
Yet Mehrdad Bazrpash has been summarily fired. Reports from Iran
early this week confirmed that Mr. Bazrpash, whose ideological
beliefs mirror the president's and who has often sharply attacked
Mr. Ahmadinejad's critics, was sacked by the very man that made him.
It is one of a number of abrupt personnel changes by Ahmadinejad -
including the firing last week of Foreign Minister Manouchehr
Mottaki - that have elicited complaints from allies and critics
alike about the president's "tribal" and imperious style, and the
overt influence of one of his closest aides.
Critics point to Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaei, the presidential chief
of staff whose daughter is married to Ahmadinejad's son, as having
too much influence on Ahmadinejad.
But despite widespread criticism of Mr. Rahim-Mashaei, including
from Iran's top clerical authority, Ahmadinejad has appointed him to
a host of senior positions. And Rahim-Mashaei's profile has only
grown, recently augmented by an official diplomatic visit to Jordan
last week, which added to speculation that Ahmadinejad sees him as a
future presidential contender. Rahim Mashaei denies the speculation.
His influence was not lost on one Iranian newspaper run by the
hard-line militant group Ansar-e Hezbollah, which this week
published a satirical cartoon showing Rahim-Mashaei dismissing
Ahmadinejad himself from the presidential post.
Bazrpash appears to have been caught out by the power politics.
But the sacking of such an evident "true believer" in Iran's unique
Islamic system, a life-long devotee of clerical rule, is raising
questions of Ahmadinejad putting politics and loyalty ahead of
Ahmadinejad's shifting priorities?
Ahmadinejad "ordered Bazrpash's dismissal" at a cabinet meeting
last Sunday, "following Bazrpash's criticism of some of Rahim-
Mashaei's interference in the affairs of the National Youth
Organization," according to the Tabnak news website.
The report speculated that Ahmadinejad's modus operandi was to
solve one crisis by creating another one, in the face of biting
United Nations and US sanctions, a highly contentious and painful
subsidy reform plan, and many other problems.
A ranking member of the Islamic Guidance Ministry was also
reportedly fired Friday, along with another forced from his job just
"Clearly inside Iran, inside conservative circles, everybody is
saying its Mashaei.... The consequence has been that even [the
official pro-regime newspaper] Kayhan is attacking Ahmadinejad -
everybody is," says Farideh Farhi, an Iran expert at the University
Rahim-Mashaei has dismissed as a "big lie" accounts that his trip
to Jordan was diplomatic overreach. But since the disputed June 2009
election, "it's clear that at least part of the elite has been
pushed out, so the ruling circle has become narrower, in terms of
ideological orientation," says Ms. Farhi.
"All the conflicts that existed have moved inside that smaller
circle [and] as this circle has become smaller, the intensity of
conflict has intensified and become more vicious," she adds. …