Mojtaba Zolnour

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came under attack today from the Supreme Leader’s deputy representative to the Revolutionary Guards, the latest sign of the dispute between the Iranian president and factions representing Ayatollah Khamenei.

Mojtaba Zolnour condemned Ahmadinejad’s relationship with his chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashai, saying it appears that Mashai “is the actual president of Iran.”

ISNA quotes Zolnour at a meeting in Mashhad saying: “Mr. Ahmadinejad is holding on to the worn out rope of Mr. Mashai and is especially close to him.”

Esfanidiar Rahim Mashia, Ahmadinejad’s chief of staff, has often been the target of criticism by conservative members of the establishment. Ahmadinejad’s earlier attempts to make Mashai his vice-president were overruled by the Supreme Leader.

Conservative critics of the government have referred to Mashai as the “leader of a deviant movement in the government.”

Despite growing criticism of Mashai, Ahmadinejad has refused to remove him from his government.

Zolnour claimed Mashai and his followers do not believe in the clergy and the rule of a supreme leader who comes from the clergy. He added: “They are propagating an Islam without the participation of the clergy.”

Zolnour said the disputes over the appointment and dismissal of cabinet ministers over the past year have all been fomented by Mashai. “However, these issues are of minor consideration in view of [Ahmadinejad’s] great service to the government, and the president is in line with the ideals of the regime,” he said. “We hope that God rids Mr. President of this individual.”

Most recently, Ahmadinejad accepted the resignation of his minister of intelligence, Heydar Moslehi, only to be overruled by the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei. Moslehi’s resignation was reportedly instigated by his dispute with Mashai.

The reinstatement of the minister of intelligence has not been taken well by Ahmadinejad, who has avoided cabinet meetings ever since.

Zolnour went on to accuse Mashai of trying to influence the composition of the government by removing individuals faithful to the supreme leader.

According to Zolnour, Mashai is trying to develop a popular base of support to set himself up as the next president. He maintained that Mashai is not particular about how he gains popular support.

Zolnour said: “Since they are the majority, he believes we should not disturb their satellites and their entertainment, he just cares about getting the vote.”

The Islamic Republic does not allow the use of private satellites. While many household have satellite dishes, the authorities reserve the right to confiscate them, which happens with every surge of conservative policies and sentiments in the government.