Following yet another direct order from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to sack his newly appointed First Vice President Esfiander Rahim Mashaei, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad today finally accepted Mashaei’s resignation and dismissed him.
Appointed a week ago Thursday, the long-time Ahmadinejad ally riled the country’s hardline clergy with comments declaring Iran as friend of Israel. On Sunday Mashaei delivered his resignation and said he no longer wanted the job, but Ahmadinejad stubbornly refused to accept it even after Khamenei ordered him removed.
In the wake of last month’s disputed elections, Khamenei has had to rely more on support from conservative and hardline clergy, as much of the reformist faction is in a state of near revolt. Mashaei’s appointment caused considerable uproar in that bloc, particularly given Israel’s repeated threats to attack Iran, and student protesters took to the streets today demanding that Ahmadinejad accept the resignation.
Mashaei made his comments in 2008 in his capacity as Vice President in charge of Tourism, and this week sought to explain that he meant Iran was a friend to the people of Israel, not to its government. With the most hardline crowd behind the movement for his ouster, the explanation appeared to have little effect.