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Shifting His Criticism from Khamenei, Ahmadinejad Targets Rouhani

Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaking in a meeting in the city of Tabriz on Thursday May 31, 2018.

Iran’s former hardline President Mahmud Ahmadinejad says it was his “agile foreign policy” that led the Obama administration to begin negotiating with Iran over its nuclear program.

Speaking in Tabriz in Eastern Azarbaijan province on Thursday, May 31, Ahmadinejad repeated a recent remark, saying that he had warned Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that “it was not the right time for negotiations,” reported a Telegram channel Dolat-e Bahar, close to Ahmadinejad.

Ahmadinejad delivered his speech despite warnings from the vigilante group Ansar-e Hezbollah not to go to Tabriz; and state officials told him that he cannot deliver a speech as he did not apply to the Interior Ministry to get a permit for the gathering.

Nevertheless, Ahmadinejad spoke to a few hundred of his supporters at a hotel in Tabriz.

In a shift from his tactics during the past year when his harsh criticism mainly targeted Khamenei, in this speech Ahmadinejad pointed his criticism at President Hassan Rouhani, although he did not spare his usual political rivals Majles Speaker Ali Larijani and Judiciary Chief Sadeq Amoli Larijani.

The shift could have been caused by threats posed by the vigilante group, and security forces storming the house of a close Ahmadinejad aide just before the speech.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaking to his supporters in the city of Tabriz on Thursday May 31, 2018.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaking to his supporters in the city of Tabriz on Thursday May 31, 2018.

He accused the Rouhani administration of “giving concessions” to world powers.

Ahmadinejad also attributed his own administration’s failure in solving the diplomatic deadlock over Iran’s nuclear program to Rouhani, saying that during the first years of his administration “Rouhani was in charge of the nuclear case” as Iran’s national security chief.

Criticizing Rouhani for the nuclear deal with the West, also called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Ahmadinejad accused the president of “weakening the country, tying the fate of everything to the JCPOA, misinforming the people and the elites, not putting JCPOA to a referendum, turning a national matter into a factional issue, and signing a deal that was against Iran’s interests and was not an international treaty.”

Elsewhere in his speech Ahmadinejad also accused the Rouhani administration of a “smear campaign” against his predecessor.

In March this year, Ahmadinejad lambasted the entire political system of Iran in two strongly worded letters to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Ahmadinejad warned that “Public dissatisfaction with the regime’s performance is serious and extremely high” and quickly engulfing the Islamic Revolution itself.

In the letters published on his mouthpiece Dolat-e Bahar website, Ahmadinejad demanded structural reforms in institutions such as the conservative-led Guardian Council and the Judiciary; called for putting an end to the rule of parallel institutions and urged to establish a constitutional court and ban the armed forces from intervening in political and economic activities.

The letters, dated February 19 and March 13, were published following the arrest of two of Ahmadinejad’s closest aides, Esfandiar Rahim Mashai, and Hamid Baqai. The two are still in jail in Tehran.

Dolat-e Bahar’s telegram channel that published the video and text of Ahmadinejad’s speech on Thursday, reported that security forces stormed Mashai’s house a few hours before the speech in Tabriz.