December 14, 2011 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 773

Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei and the Iranian Regime vs. President Ahmadinejad – Part I: Messianic Group Threatens the Regime

December 14, 2011 | By A. Savyon and Yossi Mansharof*
Iran | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 773


This paper is the first in a series of three dealing with the rift in Iran's top echelon between Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, which emerged into the open in May 2011. This rift has important ramifications for Iranian politics and also for the shape that the country will take, as it veers between two ideological/political streams: the conservative Islamic revolutionary stream and the messianic Islamic revolutionary stream.

This first paper, Part I, will discuss the rift between the streams and the ideological/political challenge that Ahmadinejad, with the force of his personality and his messianic path, has thrown down to Supreme Leader Khamenei.

Parts II and III will discuss Khamenei's response to the crisis. Part II will deal with the efforts by Khamenei's associates, primarily in the six months before the rift became public in May 2011, to bolster the legitimacy of his regime by glorifying him and presenting him as an imam, while Part III will deal with Khamenei's examination of the possibility of eliminating the presidency and replacing it with a parliamentary system, as a way of removing his rivals Ahmadinejad and Hashemi Rafsanjani.

The Rift in the Leadership: Khamenei vs. Ahmadinejad

Since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad became president in 2005, he and Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei have been allies in political cooperation, in the framework of which the final political elimination of Iran's reformist stream was carried out. Following that, it seemed that the ideological/revolutionary/messianic stream identified with Ahmadinejad (which is the rival of the conservative/traditional stream, including conservative opponents of Ahmadinejad in the Majlis, and senior officials such as Hashemi Rafsanjani, the Larijani brothers, and others) gained traction and legitimacy from Khamenei, though Ahmadinejad has been the target of ongoing criticism by his rivals in the Majlis since his election.

However, in May 2011, a serious rift between Leader Khamenei and Ahmadinejad was revealed in public; the clash was ostensibly over Ahmadinejad's firing of Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi.[1] The worst of the criticism of Ahmadinejad came from those who had previously strongly supported him throughout his six years as president: Khamenei and Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbah Yazdi, considered to be Ahmadinejad's spiritual mentor. Other prominent supporters who turned their back on Ahmadinejad were Guardian Council chairman Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati; Hossein Shariatmadari, editor of the Iranian daily Kayhan; Assembly of Experts member Ayatollah Ahmad Alam Al-Hoda, and many others who immediately fell into position alongside Supreme Leader Khamenei.

Following a week in May during which Ahmadinejad personally confronted Khamenei, the president dropped hints that he accepted Khamenei's authority. However, confrontations between Ahmadinejad's and Khamenei's associates have continued. These include invective and threats, attempts in the Majlis to depose Ahmadinejad, reciprocal accusations of corruption and shutting down of media outlets, and arrests of associates of Ahmadinejad. From time to time, Khamenei intervenes to demand an end to the public quarrels.

Regime circles in Iran have gathered around Supreme Leader Khamenei, declared their allegiance to him, and revealed their main arguments against Ahmadinejad and his associates, whom they call "the deviant stream." They claimed that both Ahmadinejad and his office director, father-in-law, and right-hand man Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei are members of a messianic sect that aspires to change the ideological infrastructure of the regime of the Islamic Revolution – that is, to do away with the doctrine of the rule of the jurisprudent (velayat-e faqih). The Khamenei loyalists warned that the messianic stream to which Ahmadinejad belongs believes that the direct relationship that Ahmadinejad claims to have with the Hidden Imam (the Mahdi, the Shi'ite messiah) – a claim supported by his associates – endows Ahmadinejad with the power to run the country with no need for the jurisprudent – i.e. Khamenei – since Khamenei's role has become superfluous in light of this relationship.[2] It should be noted that some hint that Ahmadinejad communicates with the Hidden Imam via Rahim Mashaei.

Ahmadinejad's office director Rahim Mashaei[3]

Reasons for the Rift

It appears that the background to the personal/ideological rift goes beyond the incident of the firing of Intelligence Minister Moslehi, which the Iranian media presented as its cause. Recently, the French news agency AFP stated that according to an intelligence report by a reliable country, the reason for the rift was President Ahmadinejad's wish to publicly announce Iran's military nuclear program, while Khamenei preferred that it be kept under wraps. In a May 6, 2011 article in the Washington Post, David Ignatius wrote that the clash erupted against the backdrop of an initiative by Ahmadinejad's right-hand man Mashaei to establish an open dialogue with the U.S.[4] Another explanation concerns the personal threat that Khamenei senses in the face of the growing strength of Ahmadinejad and Mashaei, who are making messianic claims and announcing the Mahdi's imminent appearance.

The Khamenei Camp's Religious-Political Accusations vis-à-vis Ahmadinejad

Since Ahmadinejad's views and actions regarding the appearance of the Mahdi have been common knowledge for some time, it seems that the religion-based claims being raised against him at this juncture are aimed at laying the groundwork for his removal. There have been instances in the Islamic and Iranian past in which a religious justification was formulated for a political rivalry – for example, when the Sunna and the Shi'a split, or when the Orthodox Shi'a faced down the Baha'i.

Following are some of the main recent accusations against Ahmadinejad and his associates:

Ahmadinejad Is Part of a Messianic Group that Threatens the Regime

Twelver Shi'a distinguishes between the "minor occultation" of the Hidden Imam (874-941 AD), during which he communicated with the community of Shi'ite believers by means of four deputies, and his subsequent "major occultation" (from 941 to the present day), during which he no longer communicates via deputies, and which will end with his final appearance.

Senior clerics Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi and Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, along with representatives of Khamenei in the various regime institutions, have said that Ahmadinejad and his fellow members of the "deviant stream" believe, based on the notions of the "minor occultation" and "major occultation," that now is the era of the Mahdi's "minor appearance," in which certain individuals can once again communicate with him directly, and that as a result the community of Shi'ite believers no longer needs the "rule of the jurisprudent" in order to maintain a proper Islamic society. Moreover, the "deviant stream" believes that the Hidden Imam's "major appearance," when he appears and delivers the community of believers, will happen very soon.[5]

Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, head of the "Society of Lecturers and Researchers at Qom's Theological Seminaries," said: "Certain circles' claims that they are communicating with the Hidden Imam are very dangerous, and the regime preachers must fight this with determination." He warned that these circles had launched a struggle against the "rule of the jurisprudent" in the belief that the appearance of the Hidden Imam occurs in two stages: the "minor appearance" and the "major appearance." They believe, he said, that now is the era of the "minor appearance," in which several individuals have the ability to communicate directly with the Hidden Imam and to receive his instructions, with no need for the intermediary of the "rule of the jurisprudent."[6]

Cartoon on the oppositionist website Rooz Online shows Ahmadinejad speaking at the UN General Assembly, with Mashaei advising him from the corner.[7] The halo is a reference to statement Ahmadinejad made in 2005; after speaking at the UN that year, he said that during his speech he had sensed that he was surrounded by a halo of light. Since then, Rooz cartoons have often depicted him with a halo, symbolizing his messianic pretensions.

Ahmadinejad Belongs to a Satanic Stream Working to Eliminate the "Rule of the Jurisprudent"; He's Bewitched by Mashaei

In numerous recent interviews and speeches, Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, considered Ahmadinejad's spiritual mentor, attacked Ahmadinejad and what he calls the "deviant stream" to which he belongs. He said that Ahmadinejad is part of a deviant and dangerous stream that, on Satan's advice, seeks to eliminate the "rule of the jurisprudent" and to set Ahmadinejad's associates at the head of the regime.

In a speech in Qom, in early June 2011, Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi said: "Recently, [members of the deviant stream] have been trying to instill [in society] the perception that [now, since] we can communicate with the Hidden Imam [directly], there is no longer any need for his representative [i.e. Khamenei]. Thus they completely undermine the principle of the 'rule of the jurisprudent'... This is a theory of Satan, and it is more destructive than any of his [other] activities."[8]

Previously, in a May 19, 2011 speech at a conference of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Mesbah Yazdi said: "In recent years an insidious danger to society's ideological base has emerged, and Satan is using all his attempts and cleverness to instill in it a deviant way of thought... Satan's strategy is to weaken the status and sanctity of the Shi'ite clerics, which is the only path to weakening the strength of Islam and to distancing society from God... [The deviant stream] is trying to weaken the status of the regime of the 'rule of the jurisprudent' and to question the need for the jurisprudent ruler, by instilling a way of thought according to which the Hidden Imam is running the country. They claim that, according to this way of thought, 'by spiritual connection [with the Hidden Imam,] we can achieve what the Hidden Imam wills, and run the country with no intermediary and without the need for experts on Islam."

He continued, "The aim of this deviant thought is to instill in the future the perception that all the activities, plans, and service [to the public] during the present years have been carried out by one deviant man, the most prominent strategist in the world, and that we carried out every activity at his inspiration, and therefore he must be [reelected as] the next president and run the country... It is very dangerous that, in the name of Islam, and using the blood of the martyrs, and after we have suffered so many difficulties, some say that the [re]election of this man – who does not have a proper understanding of Islam or a clear past in the Revolution – is a phase in the appearance [of the Hidden Imam]... Even assuming that the chance that Satan does have such a plan is infinitesimal, we must pay attention, be wary, and show sensitivity and act correctly in the face of the [coming] events and fitna."

Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi even hinted that Ahmadinejad has been "bewitched" by his office director Rahim Mashaei. He said that since his election, Ahmadinejad's "weak points in the ideological and moral dimension" were "gradually revealed; things arose that are unjustifiable and that are completely illogical – lacking intellectual logic and religious, economic, or political explanation. The fact is that this man behaves in a way that angers [even] his closest friends and his most honest partners, and causes them to oppose him and stand fast against him. Such behavior is unacceptable for any statesman, by any logic... [The president] treats his most honest friends as if they are his enemies, as happened in his faulty actions in the firing of several ministers. At the same time, the question arose of whether this behavior is in line with this person's [Ahmadinejad's] personality... I told one of my closest friends that I think that there is a greater than 90% [chance] that he has been bewitched [by his office director Mashaei]. This situation is unnatural. No intelligent man does such things, unless his [self-]control has been stripped from him."[9]

Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbah Yazdi[10]

At a June 7, 2011 meeting with political activists, Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi warned that members of the "deviant stream" had infiltrated centers of power in the regime, and called for "identifying this stream, which is dangerous to the regime and to Islam, and stopping its influence... Our red line is the 'rule of the jurisprudent.' We can cooperate within the regime only with those who accept this principle... It is a duty to struggle against anyone who intends to depose the regime and Islam... If we do not fight everyone who we know is planning betrayal [of this principle], we will sin, and [one day] we will have to explain why we did not do our duty after we saw [the actions of] the deviant stream... This dangerous stream has a defined plan to sidetrack every sector of society [from the 'rule of the jurisprudent']. We must be alert and must do our duty."[11]

The Deviant Stream – More Dangerous than All Previous Deviations in the Shi'a

In a June 21, 2011 speech in Qom, Mojtaba Zolnour, representative of Khamenei in the IRGC (who has since quit his post because he seeks to run in the March 2012 Majlis elections), said: "The deviant stream thinks that [now], at the end of days, the 'major occultation' has become the 'minor occultation,' and that during this phase of the occultation, people are able to communicate with the Hidden Imam. Ahmadinejad thinks that Mashaei is communicating with the Hidden Imam [and insists on clinging to Mashaei]."

Zolnour explained that the Ahmadinejad government had invited Jordan's King 'Abdallah and Yemeni President 'Ali 'Abdallah Saleh to Tehran because "the government believes that the fact that two 'Abdallahs are heads of Arab states is a sign of the imminent appearance [of the Hidden Imam]... Ahmadinejad praised 'Ali 'Abdallah Salah and said, 'You bear the names of three of the imams, and of the Prophet [Muhammad].' This stream believes that Jordan's King 'Abdallah is Sufyan, who is a harbinger of the [imminent] appearance of the Hidden Imam, and so they wanted to take him to the hot [springs] of Sareyn during his visit to Iran, so that the signs that according to tradition appeared on the loins and shoulders of Sufyan would appear on the body of the king."

Zolnour continued: "Several days before the anniversary of the death of the Imam [Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini], Mashaei said that on June 4 and 5, 2011 something would happen that would silence the critics. He meant that on June 4 he [Mashaei] would become a martyr and his soul would ascend [to heaven], and that on June 5 the Hidden Imam would appear. After these declarations, members of this [deviant] stream went to obtain a visa to Saudi Arabia, because they wanted to be in Mecca alongside the Hidden Imam when he appeared."[12]

In another speech, Zolnour explained that it was wrong to assume that the situation would resolve itself once Ahmadinejad disassociated himself from his office director Mashaei: "Ahmadinejad and Mashaei are like Siamese twins. An operation to separate them would be futile, [because] they would die. Ahmadinejad cannot be separated from Mashaei..." Zolnour added, "The public atmosphere is not suited to taking measures [against Ahmadinejad], so patience is needed; however, the deviant gang cannot be allowed to do as it pleases."[13]

Khamenei's representative to the IRGC, Mojtaba Zolnour[14]

In a June 6, 2011 interview with the Iranian news agency Mehr, Zolnour said: "This contemporary deviant stream seeks to weaken the foundations of the Islamic regime... It is more dangerous than all previous deviations in Shi'ite history, and even more dangerous than the Hojjatieh Society[15]... It is even more dangerous than the reformists, because they fought religious expression openly, announcing that the Islamic regime was ineffective, and every day took an explicit anti-religious stance...

"But the deviant stream covers its face with a hypocritical religious mask, and it has access to the [centers of] power and capital, and therefore it is more dangerous... The heads of the deviant stream have linked their fate to the president [Ahmadinejad], and I hope that this relationship will unravel, though it is highly unlikely that such a split [between Ahmadinejad and this stream] will happen very quickly... As long as these people are in the government, it will not be purged of the deviant stream."[16]

The Ahmadinejad of 2011 Is Not the Ahmadinejad of 2005

In an interview with the Shama weekly, Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi renounced his previous support for Ahmadinejad: "In the 2005 presidential election, someone [Ahmadinejad] whom no one had expected rose to power... How did this happen? One of the elements influencing [this event] was the [campaign] slogans that he revived 30 years after the victory of the Islamic Revolution. I don't want to judge whether he held a deeply rooted belief [in the Islamic Revolution] or not, but it seems that he raised the slogans and the people believed them..."[17]

Other senior ayatollahs also renounced Ahmadinejad, claiming as reasons for doing so his involvement in corruption scandals and in advancing a policy of nationalism at the expense of Islam. In an interview, Assembly of Experts member Ayatollah Abu Al-Qassem Ghazali, who had once been considered a patent supporter of Ahmadinejad, told the Iranian daily Javan, which is identified with the IRGC, that he supported the Ahmadinejad of 2005, but not the Ahmadinejad of 2011. He said that Ahmadinejad had shown modesty at the beginning of his presidency, but that today he was tied to and influenced by people who were looting the state treasury.[18] Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, head of the Qom Lecturer's Society, warned about Ahmadinejad's advancement of Iranian nationalism, calling it a serious deviation because the Iranian people is first and foremost Muslim, and only after that Iranian.[19]

Ahmadinejad Wants to Remain in Power Even after His Second Term Is Up

While the objections of Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi and others to Ahmadinejad were religious in nature, Abbas Salimi-Namin, chairman of the Center for Studies on Contemporary Iranian History, accused Ahmadinejad of seeking to remain in power in contravention of the constitution. Salimi-Namin, formerly an Ahmadinejad supporter, said that, under the influence of his associates, Ahmadinejad had been persuaded that he was the sole savior of the regime and was for that reason acting to remain in power even though, under the Iranian constitution, a president may serve only two consecutive terms. Salimi-Namin added that the "deviant gang" to which Ahmadinejad belonged was exploiting the peoples' belief in the appearance of the Hidden Imam in order to obtain votes from religious circles. He said further that the president's circles were interfering in the Majlis elections, and that they intended also to interfere in the next presidential election.

In a May 18, 2011 interview with the Iranian news agency Fars, Salimi-Namin said: "In the Ahmadinejad government are several who think that, in light of the great service that they have done for the revolution [i.e. the regime] and in preventing deviation [i.e. suppressing the reform movement], they shouldn't leave the arena – because if they do, the government will fall into the hands of people who are less committed to the [regime's] principles. Such a sense of obligation... is nothing but an excuse... It is the result of the flattery that filled them with the idea of remaining in power..."[20]

Abbas Salimi-Namin, chairman of the Center for Studies on Contemporary Iranian History[21]

Referring to Fatemeh Rajabi, the wife of Guardian Council member and Ahmadinejad associate Gholam-Hossein Elham, who called Ahmadinejad the "miracle of the third millennium," he continued: "The sycophants created in Ahmadinejad the thought that without him the state would fall into to serious deviation... Without a doubt, Mrs. Rajabi is among the inexperienced political elements affecting the president's imagination. Along with Fatemeh Rajabi were other sycophants, who gradually built up their own status around Ahmadinejad and expanded their influence over him. These cronies in the government made several statements that doubtless fired Ahmadinejad's imagination. They called him the reviver of the revolution and of its values. They... persuaded him that all the values [of the revolution]... had been lost, and that he had gotten the revolution back on track. These blandishments have harmed the president; today he feels that the ground must be prepared for him to remain in power, with the excuse that without him [as president] the revolution will again deviate from its path.

"Under the Iranian constitution, Ahmadinejad can serve as president for only two terms, and after that he must allow the nation to enjoy the talents of other qualified individuals in it. But apparently Ahmadinejad doesn't like that, and he is trying to remain in power and considers the law and the Supreme Leader to be standing in his way; he is marching on an unworthy path... This interpretation, i.e. that the country will prosper only if Ahmadinejad remains [in power]... is mistaken... The delusion to which Ahmadinejad has fallen victim stems from the significant activity of the sycophants around him, and that is why he is closing his eyes to numerous transgressions that this gang is committing...

"The deviant gang is exploiting the people's religious beliefs to advance its own goals – that is, to obtain their votes. The religious forces in our society have a significant belief in the Hidden Imam, and therefore the gang announces its proximity to the Hidden Imam in order to acquire the vote of this [religious] circle... Because this group has been met by the uncompromising opposition of the law and the leader [Khamenei], it is trying to influence the Majlis elections and, later, [also] the presidential election. Ahmadinejad must distance himself from his mistaken belief that he is the savior of the revolution, and that without him the country will have a problem..."

The "Deviant Stream" Is Linked to the Freemasons and the Jews; They Must Be Fought Like the Baha'i

Especially noteworthy is a statement by Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi comparing the "deviant stream" to the Baha'i in Iran. In a speech in Mashhad, he called for fighting determinedly against Ahmadinejad's "deviant stream" and mentioned that the "Baha'i stream arose following a false claim of communication with the Hidden Imam."[22]

An article on the Basirat website, which is identified with the IRGC, stated that the "sect of Mashaei" was linked to the Freemasons, which it called a secret organization founded in the 18th century to prepare the way for a Jewish takeover of the world. The article added that there was a great similarity between the Freemasons in the world and the leaders of the deviant stream in Iran, in statements and in actions. For example, it said that "a hidden bias in favor of Judaism" was evident in the 2008 statements of Mashaei praising the Iranian people's friendship with the people of the U.S. and of Israel, and also evident in Ahmadinejad's defense of Mashaei following this incident and his claims that Mashaei's statements were in keeping with the government's view. The article called for taking Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi's warning seriously, because "the danger that he senses is the worst that has ever threatened Islam."[23]

Khamenei Takes Action Against the "Deviant Stream"

After regime officials allied with Supreme Leader Khamenei against Ahmadinejad,[24] a May 16, 2011 article in the IRGC weekly Sobh-e Sadeq assessed that Khamenei would move to put an end to the "deviant stream," which it called "The New Hojjatieh," in a reference to Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini's actions against the Hojjatieh group in the early 1980s. The article explained that the term Hojjatieh is applied to the "deviant stream" because, like the Hojjatieh, this stream seeks to reject the concept of the "rule of the jurisprudent" and to fight the Supreme Leader. The article implied that the tolerance that has heretofore been shown towards this dangerous group, which claims that its divine power emanates from its relationship with the Hidden Imam, originates in Khamenei's desire to give Ahmadinejad another chance to distance himself from it. Following are excerpts from the article:[25]

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei[26]

"Recently, several political and religious activists are warning... about the danger of the formation of a deviant sect, sometimes called 'the New Hojjatieh'... The ideological and religious roots of this group are indeed inspired by the Hojjatieh Society. According to the beliefs of this gang, the Hidden Imam is on the brink of appearing. [They also believe that] thus far, Islamic governments [under Khomeini and Khamenei] were called governments of the oppressed and were run in an ordinary manner – but now is the era of the 'governments of justice,' in which the right of leadership is given to those who possess the special power [of communicating with the Hidden Imam]... According to this belief, the interim period, [namely the period of] the rule of the jurisprudent... has ended, and [now,] the goals of the government of justice are accomplished by special individuals who have unique divine power...

"This group acts like the Hojjatieh Society, and uses rhetoric that relates to Mahdist beliefs and the appearance [of the 'Hidden Imam'] in order to cover up its deviant goals... This group uses terms like justice, anticipation [of the appearance of the 'Hidden Imam'], rule, and world management, and presents several of its actions as though they were guided by the Hidden Imam or as rulings issued or inspired by him."

The article explained, "Initially, the Imam [Khomeini] was silent regarding the old Hojjatieh, but he broke his silence after its clear deviations and sentenced it to historical isolation... And today, the new Hojjatieh group has also been sentenced to isolation and expulsion... due to its lack of a serious dogmatic and social [foundation]...

"It seems that one of the causes for the restraint and for the absence of immediate measures against the group... was [the desire] to give a chance to the deceived people, whom this group meant to exploit in order to hijack the regime and circumvent the Supreme Leader and the pure Islam. Defending these individuals, minimizing defection, and convincing the people are all [goals] that require patience and intelligence, of which the Leader [Khamenei] is a worthy model. As are we, the leader's soldiers."

Khamenei to Ahmadinejad: "If it's up to me, I'll vacuum you up even before the regime becomes parliamentary"[27]

Mashaei Responds to the Accusations Against Him

Rahim Mashaei responded to the accusations against him in a May 25 press conference at the IRNA news agency, attended by the agency's director and advisor to Ahmadinejad, Ali Akbar Javanfekr (an attempt was later made to arrest him). Mashaei rejected the attacks on him and claimed that his views were inspired by the founder of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini, who pitted the pure Islam rooted in Iran against American Islam. According to Mashaei, Tehran must declare that Iran is the center of Islamic culture, and that anyone who wants to study Islam must therefore come there. He explained that the attacks on him are actually aimed at Ahmadinejad; after the latter's rivals realized that he enjoys wide public support, they preferred instead to attack his associate.

Regarding statements by Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, Mashaei said: "They exaggerated to the point of claiming that [I] put a spell on the president. Some of these people, who hold positions [in the regime], came to me and said, 'before this meeting, we were advised to be careful because Mashaei is a sorcerer who casts spells' ... They [critics of the government] said, 'though he has been repeatedly warned of Mashaei, Ahmadinejad does not listen, [which means that] Mashaei has cast a spell on him and made him into his disciple...'

"Ahmadinejad is a prominent religious conservative figure, who embodies the epitome of piety, struggle, justice, and service. They can do nothing against him, so instead they direct their criticism at [me], but Ahmadinejad told them that they were wrong and that he trusts [me]. If they speak out against Ahmadinejad, they will lose everything, since they rose [to power] thanks to him. Without him, who would have chosen them? They owe [their status] to his terms as mayor [of Tehran] and [president] during the ninth government."

Mashaei added: "If Ahmadinejad is banished from the conservative camp, nothing will remain. Ahmadinejad supports the beloved Leader [Khamenei] in terms of policy and state governance, and will not submit to the unjust demands of his rivals, who cannot speak out against him and therefore say that Mashaei has cast a spell on him... If Mashaei is a sorcerer, then why don't you break [the spell] and why are you afraid? Is there no one among you who can break Mashaei's spell and save Ahmadinejad from him?"[28]

Ahmadinejad, with halo, threatens to blow up Iran with his nuclear aspirations[29]

*A. Savyon is Director of the Iranian Media Project; Y. Mansharof is a research fellow at MEMRI.


[1] See MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 685, "Following Ahmadinejad-Khamenei Rift, Khamenei Bolsters His Status as Iran's Supreme Leader," May 2, 2011, Following Ahmadinejad-Khamenei Rift, Khamenei Bolsters His Status as Iran's Supreme Leader.

[2] Senior security official Masoud Jazairi explained that the term "deviant stream" applies to anyone who questions the principle of the rule of the jurisprudent. Mehr (Iran), June 14, 2011.

[3] Image source: Fars (Iran), October 23, 2011.

[4] The Washington Post (USA), May 6, 2011.

[5] A similar explanation was given by Khamenei's representative in the Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Mojtaba Zolnour (, June 21, 2011), by Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi (, May 19, 2011), and in a Sobh-e Sadeq article on May 16, 2011.

[6] Jihannews (Iran), August 3, 2011;, July 7, 2011. It should be noted that the claims are based on statements by Ahmadinejad and his associates about his relationship with the Hidden Imam. On this topic, see also:

MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 1328, "Iran President Ahmadinejad: 'I Have a Connection With God, Since God Said That the Infidels Will Have No Way to Harm the Believers'; 'We Have [Only] One Step Remaining Before We Attain the Summit of Nuclear Technology'; The West 'Will Not Dare To Attack Us,'" October 19, 2006, Iran President Ahmadinejad: 'I Have a Connection With God, Since God Said That the Infidels Will Have No Way to Harm the Believers'; 'We Have [Only] One Step Remaining Before We Attain the Summit of Nuclear Technology'; The West 'Will Not Dare To Attack Us'; MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 357, "The Doctrine of Mahdism: In the Ideological and Political Philosophy of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Mesbah-e Yazdi," June 4, 2007, The Doctrine of Mahdism: In the Ideological and Political Philosophy of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Mesbah-e Yazdi.

[7], September 25, 2011.

[8] Mehr (Iran), June 3, 2011

[9] Fararu (Iran), May 14, 2011.

[10] Image source: IRNA (Iran), September 28, 2011.

[11] Fararu, Javan (Iran), June 7, 2011.

[12], June 21, 2011.

[13] Mehr (Iran), June 21, 2011.

[14] Image source: IRNA (Iran), December 4, 2011.

[15] An Iranian messianic group that claimed to have direct contact with the Hidden Imam, and was outlawed by Ayatollah Khomeini in the early 1980s.

[16] Mehr (Iran), June 6, 2011. .

[17], May 19, 2011.

[18] Javan (Iran), July 31, 2011.

[19] Jihannews (Iran), August 3, 2011.

[20] Fars (Iran), May 18, 2011.

[21] Image source: Fars (Iran), October 24, 2011.

[22] Rajanews (Iran), July 23, 2011.

[23] The article stated further that elements from the Hojjatieh Society were involved in the current fitna, and that the "deviant stream" was exploiting the belief in the appearance of the Hidden Imam (intidhar) and various superstitions regarding the End of Days, as evident from a CD named "The Imminent Appearance [of the Hidden Imam]," in whose production the deviant stream was involved. Basirat (Iran), August 3, 2011.

[24] An example is IRGC Commander Mohammad Ali Jafari's support of Khamenei. At a Basij conference he said, hinting at Ahmadinejad, that the higher a man's position, the more exposed he is to the danger of moral corruption, and added: "If we don't fight the [deviant] spirit, pride will take us over and, according to the Koran, Satan will take us over and we will leave the path of truth... Khamenei's prudent management resolved the latest crisis and removed the worry from the hearts of regime supporters in the face of several doctrinal and political beliefs [that have taken hold] among Ahmadinejad's associates. The efforts and good management by the leader [Khamenei] prevented this incident from becoming the main focus of the country, though it will remain in the minds of most of the regime's supporters, and will not be expunged. Fararu (Iran), May 28, 2011.

[25] Sobh-e Sadeq (Iran), May 16, 2011.

[26] Image source: IRNA (Iran), October 17, 2011.

[27], October 17, 2011.

[28] IRNA (Iran), May 28, 2011., which is close to Mashaei, mocked Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi's statements and wondered why his knowledge as an ayatollah did not help him break the spell., May 16, 2011.

[29], October 17, 2011.

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