Meticulously planned, orchestrated and choreographed, official ceremonies attended by the Islamic Republic’s Supreme Leader are also a barometer to measure the guests’ intimacy with the host, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
One of the annual ceremonies held on September 19, mourning the violent death of the Shi’ites’ third Imam in 680, in city of Karbala, central Iraq, was not an exception.
Political analysts affiliated with the two main camps of the ruling establishment in Iran particularly zoomed on the spot designated for the former hardline president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. This is reminiscent of the Cold War era, when Kremlinologists carefully studied the public appearances of top Communist leaders to assess the power structure within the ruling elite.
The pictures of the ceremony show that Ahmadinejad was given a place much farther from Khamenei’s seat than where he used to sit in previous gatherings.
The images clearly depict nine intelligence and security officials sitting between Khamenei and Ahmadinejad’s spot, which is at very end of the top row. Whereas, during his two terms as president, Ahmadinejad was always given a seat next to the Supreme Leader.
But lately, he is being moved farther and farther from Khamenei.
As a result, Ahmadinejad’s supporters and opponents rushed to social media to enthusiastically elaborate on the development.
Some argued that the place allocated to Ahmadinejad was in fact Khamenei’s response to his former protégés recent news making videos attacking the establishment and lambasting the Islamic Republic’s judicial system and its Chief-Justice, Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli Larijani.
Ahmadinejad’s opponents insisted that the vociferous former president is losing Khamenei’s support so swiftly that he might be soon silenced by being placed under house arrest.
From the time Ahmadinejad’s close allies, former Chief of Staff, Esfandyar Rahim Mashshaei and Deputy President for Executive Affairs, Hamid Baqaei were thrown behind bars, he has turned into an “unstoppable” critic of the regime, calling for the immediate resignation of the heads of the three branches of the government; President Rouhani, the Speaker of parliament, Ali Larijani and his younger brother Sadeq Amoli Larijani who is in charge of the country’s judiciary.
Furthermore, Ahmadinejad has directly bombarded Khamenei with open letters, implicitly threatening him personally.
Nevertheless, Khamenei has apparently decided to avoid any response, at least publicly.
A supporter of Ahmadinejad’s former ally and successor as Mayor of Tehran, IRGC commander General Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, and manager of conservative website, Farda, Mohammad Saleh Meftah was the first person to highlight the fact that Ahmadinejad was given a lower seat at the annual ceremony.
“Ahmadinejad has come for mourning to the Leader’s House. He is sitting farther; but probably they have not allowed him to sit near the Leader. The guests were told to refrain from chanting for or against each other,” Meftah tweeted.
Another social media user, introducing himself as Zanjan University student, Sa’eed Najafi Asli, fired back, “Out of an army of officials, why the media have focused only on Ahmadinejad’s place at the ceremony? It shows that Ahmadinejad is the most effective politician in Iran.”
In a sarcastic tweet, Yousef says, “Ahmadinejad is getting farther from the Leader’s chair and soon, he will be placed outside the door.”
The managing editor of a pro-reform website, Bahar News, Mansour Ghanavati has gone further by maintaining, “After heavy verdicts issued against Ahmadinejad’s close allies, he was officially pushed into a marginal place and, as a rule, the next step will be placing him under house arrest.”
Moreover, Ghanavati has argued that Ahmadinejad’s membership in the influential Expediency Council will not save him from house arrest; as [the former PM] Mir Hossein Mousavi, a member of the same council, has been under house arrest since 2011.
Meanwhile, Ahmadinejad’s official Twitter account has published one of the images of the ceremony, without any comment.