Ahmadinejad ‘bewitched’ says Iran ayatollah
Second time that concerns have been raised over supernatural influences on the Iranian president
A power struggle that has raged at the top of Iranian politics over the last few months has taken a bizarre turn, after a senior cleric alleged that president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been "bewitched" by a key aide.
Ayatollah Mohammed Taghi Mesbah Yazdi made the charge in a weekly magazine, where he said the president was behaving "unnaturally" and needed to be saved from Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, his top advisor.
Yazdi claims that hypnotism, spells or charms have been used on Ahmadinejad, and says he is "almost certain that [the president] has been bewitched".
It is the second supernatural accusation levelled at the reformist Mashaei in recent weeks. Last month, associates of his were arrested, including a person accused of sorcery and a cleric who is predicting that a new Shiite messiah is coming.
The latest accusation is another indication of how concerned conservative and religious members of the Tehran elite are at Mashaei's influence over Ahmadinejad. The presidential aide advocates that Iran should look more to its own national culture than to Islamic teachings - a policy that the theocrats who run Iran see as akin to treason.
Indeed Mashaei almost attracts as much hatred as the country's external foes such as Israel and the US. The Washington Post reports that "ayatollahs, politicians and officials referred to Mashaee in terms normally used for Iran's worst enemies, labelling him a foreign spy, a freemason and a leader of an effort to overthrow the Islamic Republic". Despite his many enemies, he seems to retain the president's favour - his daughter is married to Ahmadinejad's son.
Ahmadinejad's ongoing battle with the clerics has been spilling into the open more and more frequently. In April the president was widely seen to have forced the resignation of his intelligence minister, Heydar Moslehi. But within hours the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had reinstated Moslehi, a perceived slight that led to Ahmadinejad staging a nine-day boycott of official activities.
The president finally returned to work after 216 of the country's 290 MPs wrote to him, saying: "You are expected to adhere to the supreme leader [Ayatollah Ali Khamenei] and put an end to that which our enemies are taking advantage of."
The president is now looking isolated. Members of parliament yesterday threatened to impeach him over what they claim are abuses of power. Ahmadinejad was expected to answer the charges yesterday in a live TV broadcast which was mysteriously postponed at short notice. ·
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