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In showdown, Ahmadinejad backs down on deputy pick


After a week of political bickering in Iran over the president’s choice of his top deputy, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reverses his decision and accepts Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaei’s resignation.

The official dismissal of President Ahmadinejad’s most senior vice president came after a handwritten note by Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei ordering the president to remove his vice president was made public on Friday.

“The appointment of Mr. Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaei as presidential deputy is contrary to your interests and that of the government and a cause of division and frustration among your supporters. It is necessary for this appointment to be declared null and void,” read the note by the Leader.

Rahim-Mashaei said late Friday that since the disclosure of the letter, he no longer considered himself as the first vice president, according to Ahmadinejad’s senior advisor, Mojtaba Samareh-Hashemi.

“In the face of this decree, I don’t believe myself to be the first vice president,” Mashaei was quoted as saying.

Later on Saturday, President Ahmadinejad, in a letter to Rahim-Mashaei, accepted his resignation.

However, Ahmadinejad acknowledged that he had expected the country’s political developments to play out in such a way that Rahim-Mashaei could have remained in the vice presidential post.

“Over the past week I was hoping that certain propaganda tactics and smear campaigns would be removed so that the administration could make use of your services in the post of vice president,” read the letter.

The Iranian president also sent a letter to Ayatollah Khamenei informing him about his decision to accept Rahim-Mashaei’s resignation, ending a week of acrimony over the deputy.

“I hereby inform you that your order of July 18 has been carried out based on the Article 57 of the Constitution,” read Ahmadinejad’s letter to the Leader.

According to the article, the Leader of the Islamic Revolution has the final say in all matters of state and the executive branch, headed by the president, “functions under his supervision.”

Rahim-Mashaei’s appointment as the country’s vice president unleashed torrents of criticism from both the president’s supporters and opponents alike.

In 2008, Rahim-Mashaei turned into a controversial figure after saying that Iran is a “friend of the Israeli people”. He later distanced himself from his remarks, saying that his comments had been misinterpreted.

Refusal by President Ahmadinejad to remove his first deputy drew harsh criticism from among his supporters in the Principlist camp in Iran.

The Iranian president and his cabinet members engaged in a verbal quarrel over his insistence on the choice on Thursday, with the ministers of Culture and Islamic Guidance, Intelligence and Labor staging a walk-out from the Cabinet meeting.

Hamid-Reza Katouzian, a member of the Principlist faction that holds the majority of seats in Parliament, said that President Ahmadinejad’s insistence on the appointment raises doubts about his “abidance” by the Leader, Etemad-e Melli reported on Thursday.

The Principlist lawmaker went on to urge Ahmadinejad to reverse his decision on the issue to prove that he is following the path of the late Founder of the Islamic Revolution Imam Khomeini and Ayatollah Khamenei.

In separate remarks, Parviz Sarvari, a member of the National Security and Foreign Policy Commission of Majlis, also urged the president to revoke the appointment to “prove his commitment” to the Leader.

Rahim-Mashaei’s ouster was also demanded in a Friday sermon led by senior Principlist cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, with hundreds of students rallying in Tehran on Friday calling for his removal.

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