Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was grappling yesterday with a new political crisis that has weakened his standing even among his hardline supporters as he prepares to unveil a new government.
Ahmadinejad has come under fire over the sacking of his intelligence minister on Sunday and was dealt another blow when his culture minister quit over what he said was a weakened government.
Iran has been in turmoil since Ahmadinejad’s bitterly disputed re-election in a June 12 presidential poll triggered a wave of mass public protests and unrest.
The post-election chaos has also exposed deep divisions within the ruling elite in the Islamic republic and led to open criticism of not only Ahmadinejad but also supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
“A chaotic day for the government,” thundered the front-page headline of the conservative Tehran Emrouz newspaper after the weekend Cabinet drama.
The Mehr news agency quoted an “informed source” as saying Intelligence Minister Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejeie was sacked following a “verbal quarrel” with Ahmadinejad at a Cabinet meeting over his controversial pick for first vice president.
Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie finally stepped down as first vice president on Saturday after the all-powerful Khamenei intervened in the crisis and personally ordered Ahmadinejad to dismiss him.
Ejeie’s dismissal has set off a chorus of criticism even among the conservative wing in Iran just days before Ahmadinejad is to be sworn in again on Aug. 5 and then set about forming a new cabinet.
MP Ali Motahari urged Ahmadinejad to “control his nerves.”
“It looks as if he is intentionally bringing tension to the country. If the removal of the minister is because of this [objections to Rahim Mashaie’s appointment] it is an ugly act because then it becomes a personal matter and has nothing to do with the country’s interests,” he said.