What is notable here is the claim that Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi is taking the side of Supreme Ruler Khamenei against his own sect's chief accolyte President mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad. Perhaps as a way to avoid being destroyed by the Supreme Ruler or retain some influence for this weird group.
Arresting their supporters as "sorcerers" to protect the "rule by clerics" may be the only way Khamenei can handle the superstitious populace, many of whom have fairly deep seated belief in the Mahdi of End Times and who have clashed with Khamenei forces in the streets.
Showdown in the Shia Corridors of Power
Gary H. Johnson, Jr.
“A nation from the East will rise and prepare the way for the coming of the Mahdi”
-Prophet Muhammad, Hadith tradition
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s defiance of Ayatollah Khameini, Iran’s Supreme Leader, is no laughing matter. An 11-day strike by President Ahmadinejad has ended with the arrest of 25 of his associates on the charge of sorcery – a charge which carries the penalty of death.
Ahmadinejad’s Chief of Staff, Esfandiar Rahim Masheia, lies at the heart of the controversy. Rumor has it that “Mashaei allegedly occasionally enters a trance-like state to communicate with the Twelfth Imam or will sometimes randomly say ‘hello’ to no one at all and then explain that the Twelfth Imam just passed by.”
Ayandeh, an Iranian news website, described one of the arrested men, Abbas Ghaffari, as "a man with special skills in metaphysics and connections with the unknown worlds".
Following the 2009 elections, Ayatollah Khameini rejected Ahmadinejad’s decision to raise Mashaei to the position of First Vice President. Ahmadinejad eventually relented and made him Chief of Staff.
The rift between President Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Khameini came to a head in late April. President Ahmadinejad asked the Minister of Intelligence, Heidar Moslehi, to resign due to concerns that Moslehi was stoking criticism of his Chief of Staff.
President Ahmadinejad accepted the resignation of Minister Moslehi on April 17th. However, Ayatollah Khameini refused to accept the resignation. The Iranian news website Azad Negar noted that the Intelligence Minister’s resignation followed Moslehi’s decision to replace the chief of the Intelligence Ministry’s Bureau of Planning and Budget. Notably, the chief of the bureau was a political ally of Ahmadinejad’s Chief of Staff, Mashaei.
The Ayatollah ordered Moslehi to remain in his position. President Ahmadinejad then staged a strike for 11 days that placed the future of his administration in question. Ahmadinejad refused to return to the Presidential Palace to reside over his cabinet meetings with Moslehi present. A sulking Ahmadinejad also canceled an official visit to Qom, a place often described as Iran’s holiest city. These two moves caused 12 Ministers of Iran’s Parliament to call for President Ahmadinejad’s impeachment.
President Ahmadinejad’s political gyrations in support of his Chief of Staff were read as a breach of the traditional power-sharing agreement in Iran. In response Ayatollah Khameini, as the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Establishment of Iran, has apparently chosen to purge the propaganda arm of a millennial cult known as the Hojatieh Society. The Hojatieh’s influence in Ahmadinejad’s inner circle is well documented.
Dore Gold captures the essence of the Hojatieh Society’s political drive for power in his recent release The Rise of Nuclear Iran:
Founded in 1954, its twofold mission was to fight the Bahai faith and pave the way for the reappearance of the Mahdi. It did not accept Khomeini’s doctrine of velayat-e faqih, the rule of the jurisprudent, since the arrival of the Mahdi make a cleric to represent him in the interim unnecessary.
Mubarak’s fall from power in Egypt on February 11th 2011 prompted the Iranian President Ahmadinejad to remark on the Arab Spring,
“This is a global revolution, managed by the imam of the ages.”
Ahmadinejad’s speech in Tehran’s Azadi Square sent alarm bells through the Qom Establishment. If the Mahdi, the Hidden Imam, had indeed returned from his occultation as Ahmadinejad was suggesting, than the institution of the vilayet-e faqih, the beating heart of the Khomeini Revolution, was no longer the source of authority in Iran. The release of an Ahmadinejad-sponsored documentary in mid-March advanced the notion that the Mahdi was orchestrating the Arab Spring.
Conservative clerics in Iran were critical of President Ahmadinejad’s disobedience of the Ayatollah in the wake of Moslehi’s reinstatement.
Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, a hardline cleric close to Khamenei, warned that disobeying the supreme leader – who has the ultimate power in Iran – is equivalent to "apostasy from Allah".
Reports indicate that the Ayatollah has told Ahmadinejad to either accept Minister Moslehi’s reinstatement or resign from the presidency. The stand-off has placed Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei at the center of the storm.
"Currently Mashaei is the real president," said Hojjat ol-Eslam Mojtaba Zolnur, the Supreme Leader's representative in the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC).
Further Zolnur remarked, “Mr. Ahmadinejad has held on to a decaying rope by relying on Mashaei.”
The row over Minister Moslehi’s reinstatement is further complicated by the release of the March documentary about the Hidden Imam’s return. Conservative clerics have accused Ahmadinejad’s inner circle, including Mashaei, of releasing the video. The return of the twelfth Imam is a sacred event in Shia Islam that velayat loyalists believe cannot be predicted. The fact that the documentary claims to predict the coming of the Mahdi is seen by Khomeinist clerics as proof of a “deviant current” within the ranks of Ahmadinejad’s power brokers.
Ahmadinejad returned to the Presidential Palace on May 1st to contemplate the path forward. By May 5th, the Guardian revealed the Ayatollah Khameini’s moves to place pressure on Ahmadinejad to support the velayat-e faqih:
Since Ahmadinejad's return this week, at least 25 people, who are believed to be close to Mashaei, have been arrested. Among them is Abbas Amirifar, head of the government's cultural committee and some journalists of Mashaei's recently launched newspaper, Haft-e-Sobh.
President Ahmadinejad is not eligible for re-election in 2013. It is believed that President Ahmadinejad is grooming Esfandiar Rahim Masheia to take the keys to the Presidential Palace.
Tradition holds that the Mahdi will return to the earth in a time of great chaos. The Hojatieh Society believes this chaos can be engineered. In that strain, the forced resignation of Larijani on the nuclear negotiation front in October 2007 as well as the firing of Foreign Minister Mottaki in December 2010 foreshadowed the attempt to kick Minister Moslehi to the curb in April 2011.
According to Dore Gold, the belief that the Mahdi’s return was imminent rather than an end-times construct amounted to “an enormous irrational factor” in the Iranian Nuclear question.
The recent death of Osama bin Laden has introduced an unexpected wrinkle in the activities of Islamists in the Arab Spring; however, the ouster of Ahmadinejad would dramatically alter the geopolitical picture of the Greater Middle East.
The U.S. Special Representative of the Central Region, Dennis Ross, has led the way to a U.S.-Muslim Engagement which began in a June 2009 Cairo address which witnessed an open hand of American negotiations slapped aside by Ahmadinejad’s crack down on the Iranian Green Movement. The foundation of the Ross statecraft of engagement was defining Iran as a “rational” actor. After over a year of diplomatic overtures and sanctions activities, in an October 2010 address to AIPAC, Dennis Ross noted:
Iran’s own behavior over the past two years…has demonstrated that it prefers defiance and secrecy to transparency and peace.
In addition to unilateral sanctions from the United States, Ross highlighted the international community’s push to isolate the Iranian Regime:
UNSCR 1929 bans a wide range of Iranian activities including ballistic missile activity, Iranian investment in nuclear industries abroad, and the export of certain heavy weapons to Iran, which the Russians in particular have used as the basis for canceling the sale of an advanced air defense system to Iran.
The resolution provides mechanisms for inspecting Iranian cargo and seizing contraband, and requires member states to exercise vigilance when conducting business with any Iranian entity, including the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and Iran’s shipping firm IRISL.
The combination of international pressure and a challenge to the supremacy of the Khomeinist doctrine of the velayat-e faqih has led to the Ayatollah Khameini’s recent push to purge the “irrational” Hojatieh elements from the Tehran regime.
Ironically, in order to establish a presence as a “rational” actor in a bid to claim the title of Superpower of the Middle East, Ayatollah Khameini has chosen to embark on a literal witch hunt.
Ahmadinejad may survive the purge. Indeed, the purge may be nothing more than a dramatic hoax to satisfy Western criticism of Iran’s colorful past in the industry of state-sponsored terrorism. Only a revisionist history of Iran can dismiss the Islamic Establishment of Iran’s support of organizations ranging from Hezbollah to Hamas to Al Qaeda.
At present, the only certainty is that any and all aspirations of Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei to win the Iranian Presidency have been sacrificed to the geopolitics of regional hegemony.
The Western world is now witness to the spectacle of the Islamic Establishment of Iran achieving