You are hereWashington Post: Hard-liners call for arrest of Ahmadinejad confidant as pressure builds on president

Washington Post: Hard-liners call for arrest of Ahmadinejad confidant as pressure builds on president

May 18, 2011- TEHRAN, Iran — A hard-line publication called on security forces Wednesday to arrest President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s closest political aide amid a widening political power struggle over who will shape Iran’s next government.

The demand by the Ya Lesarat weekly, considered the mouthpiece for some of Iran’s most extremist factions, does not necessarily mean authorities will act. But it reflects the fierce internal battles between Ahmadinejad and ultra-conservative groups who accuse him of trying to defy the authority of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The heart of the crisis is over attempts to block Ahmadinejad and his loyalists from controlling the next parliament and influencing the candidates to succeed Ahmadinejad when he leaves office in 2013. Ahmadinejad’s critics claim he seeks to expand his powers at the expense of the ruling clerics, who were once his solid allies.

The commentary in the hard-line weekly urges the arrest of Ahmadinejad’s chief-of-staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, calling him a “very dangerous person who is propping up a new cult” — a reference to accusations that Mashaei seeks to undermine the ruling system in place since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Mashaei is also despised by hard-liners for views that elevate the values of pre-Islamic Persia and his statements suggesting Iran can oppose Israel’s government but can be friendly with the Israeli people.

Authorities have already arrested up to 25 people loyal to Ahmadinejad and Mashaei in recent weeks, including Kazem Kiapasha, a close Mashaei ally. Officials also have blocked half a dozen websites allied to them.

Kiapasha was taken into custody Tuesday over his alleged role in producing the controversial film “Reappearance Is Very Near” that depicts Ahmadinejad and Khamenei as two close companions of Mahdi, a revered 9th century saint known as the Hidden Imam. Shiite Muslims believe Mahdi will reappear before Judgment Day to end tyranny and promote justice in the world.