Ahmadinejad allies charged with sorcery

Iranian power struggle between president and supreme leader sees arrests and claims of undue influence of chief of staff

Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, who is described as 'the actual president of Iran' by allies of the country's supreme leader.

Close allies of Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, have been accused of using supernatural powers to further his policies amid an increasingly bitter power struggle between him and the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Several people said to be close to the president and his chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, have been arrested in recent days and charged with being "magicians" and invoking djinns (spirits).

Ayandeh, an Iranian news website, described one of the arrested men, Abbas Ghaffari, as "a man with special skills in metaphysics and connections with the unknown worlds".

The arrests come amid a growing rift between Ahmadinejad and Khamenei which has prompted several MPs to call for the president to be impeached.

On Sunday, Ahmadinejad returned to his office after an 11-day walkout in an apparent protest over Khamenei's reinstatement of the intelligence minister, who the president had initiallyasked to resign.

Ahmadinejad's unprecedented disobedience prompted harsh criticism from conservatives who warned that he might face the fate of Abdulhassan Banisadr, Iran's first post-revolution president who was impeached and exiled for allegedly attempting to undermine clerical power.

Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, a hardline cleric close to Khamenei, warned that disobeying the supreme leader – who has the ultimate power in Iran – is equivalent to "apostasy from God".

Ahmadinejad has so far declined to officially back Khamenei's ruling over Heydar Moslehi, the minister at the centre of the row. In the first cabinet meeting since the president returned, Moslehi was absent.

Khamenei's supporters believe that the top-level confrontation stems from the increasing influence of Mashaei, an opponent of greater involvement of clerics in politics, who is being groomed by Ahmadinejad as a possible successor.

But the feud has taken a metaphysical turn following the release of an Iranian documentary alleging the imminent return of the Hidden Imam Mahdi – the revered saviour of Shia Islam, whose reappearance is anticipated by believers in a manner comparable to that with which Christian fundamentalists anticipate the second coming of Jesus.

Conservative clerics, who say that the Mahdi's return cannot be predicted, have accused a "deviant current" within the president's inner circle, including Mashaei, of being responsible for the film.

Ahmadinejad's obsession with the hidden imam is well known. He often refers to him in his speeches and in 2009 said that he had documentary evidence that the US was trying to prevent Mahdi's return.

Since Ahmadinejad's return this week, at least 25 people, who are believed to be close to Mashaei, have been arrested. Among them is Abbas Amirifar, head of the government's cultural committee and some journalists of Mashaei's recently launched newspaper, Haft-e-Sobh.

On Saturday, Mojtaba Zolnour, Khamenei's deputy representative in the powerful Revolutionary Guard, said: "Today Mashaei is the actual president. Mr Ahmadinejad has held on to a decaying rope by relying on Mashaei."


Your IP address will be logged

Brian Whitaker's best blogs and analysis from the Middle East

    • 10 May 2011
    • Inglorious Bastards, with a Syrian Twist!

    • As the Assad-orchestrated crackdown takes place, the statements made by Assad officials proclaiming victory, make it clear that the Assads are not waging war against protesters only, but reality...

      From Syrian Revolution Digest
    • 9 May 2011
    • The Square of Change in Sana'a: an Incubator for Reform

    • Summary: Yemen has witnessed widespread protests and sit-ins throughout the squares of change for the past three months. These squares became incubators for change and the birthplace of a new...

      From Arab Reform Initiative
    • 8 May 2011
    • Separate and Still Unequal

    • The Saudi Minister of Education has half a point as relayed in this Saudi Gazette article. When it comes to Physical Education programs in Saudi schools, even boys schools aren’t very organized. When...

      From Crossroads Arabia

Latest from the blogs

Bestsellers from the Guardian shop

Latest news on guardian.co.uk

Last updated less than one minute ago

Guardian Bookshop

This week's bestsellers

  1. 1.  Faber Poetry Collection

    £40.00

  2. 2.  Map of a Nation

    by Rachel Hewitt £25.00

  3. 3.  Being Wrong & Map Of A Nation Bundle

    £40.00

  4. 4.  Pakistan: A Hard Country

    by Anatol Lieven £30.00

  5. 5.  So You Think You Know About Britain?

    by Danny Dorling £8.99