Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has explained the reasons behind his recent cabinet changes that drew criticism across the political spectrum in the country.
In a recent meeting with a group of university associations, the president enumerated reasons behind certain cabinet changes in particular the dismissal of the Intelligence Minister Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Eje’i.
Recent media reports said that Mohseni-Eje’i was dismissed for allegedly opposing the appointment of Esfandyar Rahim-Mashaei as first deputy president after he and some other ministers engaged in a verbal quarrel with the president in a cabinet meeting over the choice of Ahmadinejad’s right-hand man.
Rahim-Mashaei had been slammed by many previously for saying that Iran was a “friend of the Israeli people.” The Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei eventually sent a hand-written command declaring Rahim-Mashaei’s appointment as “null and void.”
The president’s office, however, rejected this spat as the reason for Mohseni-Eje’I’s dismissal.
According to President Ahmadinejad, Mohseni-Eje’i’s dismissal was the culmination of a 2-year-long divergence, and not a hasty decision.
Ahmadinejad said that one of the reasons that the Intelligence Minister was no longer welcomed at the cabinet table was that he had failed to heed his order to dismiss two of his deputies at the Intelligence Ministry.
The president also voiced his dissatisfaction over the case of Haleh Esfandiari, head of the Wilson Center’s Middle East program. He said the arrest of the 68-year-old Esfandiari as the “mastermind” behind a potential “velvet revolution” was based on an erroneous understanding of the political process.
Esfandiari was arrested in 2007 on suspicions of endangering the country’s national security but was later released after three months in detention.
The president then said the Intelligence Ministry did not meet his expectations in handling of the events surrounding the disputed June 12 presidential election.
“Two weeks before the riots started, the Foreign Ministry reported that it was very suspicious that a significant number of people were traveling to Iran from Britain. But the Intelligence Ministry did not pursue the matter. The Ministry did not also act as it was expected in the recent unrests and there were blatant cases of negligence.”
Tehran turned into a scene of street protests after opposition candidates, Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, dismissed presidentail election’s official results as “fraudulent” and their supporters held numerous rallies in protest, some of which have turned violent. At least 20 people have been killed in the unrest and many arrested.
The president went on to say that the Intelligence Ministry had also failed to provide the officials with pertinent reports on the pre-election activities of certain political developments, which, according to the president, were part of a long-term plan to disturb the 10th presidential election.
Following the minister’s removal, President Ahmadinejad named Majid Alavi as Acting Intelligence Minister and installed himself as the ‘Caretaker Minister’.
The president’s decision to act as the caretaker until a new cabinet is formed threw the country’s polity into confusion.
Ahmad Tavakkoli, a senior Principlist representative from Tehran in the Majlis (Iran’s parliament), accused the president of breaking the law.
“By law, the caretaker of the Intelligence Ministry should have all the necessary requirements and qualifications of a ‘Mujtahid’.”
Islamic law defines Mujtahid as a male Islamic scholar who is competent enough to interpret divine law (Sharia) in practical situations using Ijtihad (independent thought).
Tavakkoli criticized President Ahmadinejad for violating the constitution, saying he should have postponed the appointment of the intelligence minister until after the new cabinet is formed.