May 4, 2009


Iran supreme leader rebukes president over powers (ALI AKBAR DAREINI, 5/04/09, Associated Press)

The flap centered around control of a body that organizes the annual hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, traditionally part of responsibilities under supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's vast powers. Khameini overturned the government's removal of the head of the organization.

The rebuke, issued in the press on Monday, comes at a time when Iranians are watching carefully for any sign as to whether Khamenei's support for Ahmadinejad is weakening as the president faces a tough battle for a second term in June 12 elections. Khameini's backing is important for any presidential candidate to win. [...]

Khamenei holds ultimate power in Iran, at the top of the Muslim clerical hierarchy above elected figures such as the president. If his support for Ahmadinejad is clear, then it would likely rally conservatives behind the president. If not, conservatives could take it as a signal to back an alternative candidate.

The dispute began last month when Ahmadinejad's government put the hajj committee under Iran's tourism authority. One of Ahmadinejad's vice presidents then dismissed the hajj organization chief, Mostafa Khaksar Qahroudi, and installed a replacement.

That brought a protest from the supreme leader's representative on hajj affairs, Ayatollah Mohammad Mohammadi Reishahri, who called the government's move illegal.

Khamenei issued a statement backing his representative and ordering Qahroudi be restored.

"Regarding the replacement in the Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization, the president was strongly notified that the annexation of this organization to the tourism committee is not appropriate," the government daily "Iran" quoted Khamenei as saying. He ordered that the "situation remain as it was before."

Perhaps more humiliating was that Khamenei addressed Reishahri and not the president in the notification.

It was undeniably a rebuke, and not the first.

In January 2008, Khamenei reversed a decision by Ahmadinejad and ordered him to implement a law supplying natural gas to remote villages. The order was seen as a stinging blow to the president, who was facing deep public anger over fuel shortages during a particularly cold winter.

Khamenei didn't want him to win and doesn't want him re-elected. Ahmedinejad isn't the economic reformer that the Ayatollah needs to save the Republic.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 4, 2009 11:52 AM
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