Explaining the decision, Khamenei told a gathering of Basij paramilitary members that “all officials need peace to carry out their responsibilities, and putting an end to the issue will show that the legislative and executive branches respect unity and peace more than anything else.”
Although many here had begun to believe that Ahmadinejad and his associates would be swept from Iran’s political scene, there are signs that his most controversial adviser may attempt to succeed him as president.
A report surfaced in late November that Ahmadinejad’s chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, had reasserted his intention of running for president in June. The report came after months in which Mashaei was out of public view.
Also in November, the judiciary dropped charges against Ali Akbar Javanfekr, Ahmadinejad’s media adviser and the head of the Islamic Republic News Agency, who has been serving two six-month sentences in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison for publishing an article that questioned the origins of the Islamic dress code and for insulting the supreme leader.
Although the moves seem to point to job security for Ahmadinejad, there is little consensus about his political legacy or the role his inner circle might play in Iranian politics beyond the election in June.
Former president Mohammad Khatami, who is considered a reformer, has suggested it would be better for Ahmadinejad to serve out the rest of his term so that he would get the blame for whatever happens to Iran during the first half of next year.
“All the consequences and calamities will be written under his name,” Khatami said. “This will not happen if he is put aside before his term is finished.”
On the other end of the spectrum, among hard-liners, there is concern that Ahmadinejad will continue to exert influence after he leaves office.
In an interview, Hamid Reza Taraghi, a prominent hard-liner who is believed to be close to the supreme leader, likened Ahmadinejad to Russia’s Vladimir Putin, who returned to the presidency after a term as prime minister.
Iran’s constitution allows for a third term in office but only two terms consecutively, meaning that Ahmadinejad could conceivably run again in 2017. He has publicly stated, though, that his intention is to return to university teaching.
Joby Warrick in Washington contributed to this report.