Former hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has criticized “the closed circle of Iranian leadership,” in a strongly worded commentary on his website Dolat-e Bahar on March 7.
Ahmadinejad says that the closed circle has reached “the last act of the show,” and “the powerful hand of the nation will break this rigid circle.”
This is the harshest tone and language Ahmadinejad has used in a series of defiant remarks since his disqualification in the latest Iranian presidential race in May 2017.
Ahmadinejad wrote that both rival political factions in Iran, reformists and conservatives, are represented in this circle. Ahmadinejad also disclosed that he and his aides have been under heavy pressures by this circle because they have crossed regime's “red lines.”
Ahmadinejad had previously criticized Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in a letter to him for “not being able to control the Iranian Judiciary,” and had called for the “immediate removal of Judiciary Chief Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli Larijani, and holding early elections, without intervention by military organizations and the Guardian Council” that vets the candidates.
He had also demanded “essential reforms in the legislative, judiciary and executive bodies,” as well as in Khamenei’s own office.”
Ahmadinejad whose tone became harsher and sharper after a few of his top aides were summoned to court on charges of financial corruption, called on Khamenei to stop prosecuting opposition figures and to free those who are in jail.
Khamenei and other hardliners criticized Ahmadinejad’s previous remarks. Khamenei said that those who have already been in power in Iran cannot play the part of the opposition, and others have accused Ahmadinejad and his aides of “widespread corruption” and “wasting national resources.”
The opponents of the Iranian regime also accuse Ahmadinejad of suppressing the protests that took place following the disputed presidential election in 2009.
Iranian judiciary officials have repeatedly said that they can order Ahmadinejad to be arrested, but they ae hesitating for the sake of the “nation’s expediency.” Deputy Judiciary Chief Gholamhossein Eje’i even charged that Ahmadinejad must have his head examined.
Why Khamenei tolerates Ahmadinejad?
Iran watchers agree that the extremely defiant remarks could have landed anyone else in Jail. But why Khamenei has been tolerating him so far?
Khamenei strongly supported Ahmadinejad in his first term as president (2005-2009), but the two fell out halfway through Ahmadinejad’s second term (2009-2013) after Ahmadinejad tried to fire then Intelligence Minister Heidar Moslehi, and Khamenei rejected the dismissal.
Some observers say Khamenei is not willing to have Ahmadinejad arrested because it would mean that the “infallible” supreme leader has made a mistake by endorsing him in the first place at the price of alienating his long-time allies such as former President Hashemi Rafsanjani.
Others say, Khamenei is reluctant to punish Ahmadinejad as he fears reprisal by millions of those who still support him for his populist policies such as giving cash handouts to the poor. Others say the opposite, that the reason Ahmadinejad is still at large is that Khamenei knows he has very few supporters.
Conspiracy theorists say Ahmadinejad has secret information that he might give away to discredit Khamenei and his regime.
Another conspiracy theory is that Ahmadinejad pretends to be opposing the regime, but he does so with Khamenei’s permission. Based on this theory, Ahmadinejad is the safest opposition leader Khamenei can have.
However, whatever the reason for Ahmadinejad’s attacks on the regime and its figureheads, a backlash is always probable.
Ahmadinejad’s spiritual father, hardline Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbah Yazdi has recently branded him as “deviant,” and hardline MP for Qom, Mojtaba Zulnur has said “Ahmadinejad is a full-fledged counter-revolutionary.”