TEHRAN – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came under new pressure Sunday, as an influential cleric charged that he has been “bewitched” by a controversial senior aide and key lawmakers renewed their impeachment threat.
Ahmadinejad is behaving “unnaturally” and needs to be “saved,” Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi, a former supporter of the president, told the weekly Shoma magazine.
The cleric said Ahmadinejad’s top adviser, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, has used has hypnotism, spells or charms to take control of Iran’s elected leader. “I am almost certain that he has been bewitched,” Yazdi said.
The president’s close relationship with Mashaei, and his recent refusal to cut those ties, has become a major liability for Ahmadinejad. According to the semi-official Fars News Agency, Mashaei and his allies are working to decrease the role of clerics in the Islamic Republic. In April, several close associates of Mashaei were arrested, among them a cleric predicting the coming of the Shiite messiah and a man accused of sorcery.
The new accusations from Yazdi indicate that decision-makers within Iran’s ruling elite want the adviser fired, a move which would seriously limit Ahmadinejad’s presidency, analysts say.
Ahmadinejad was scheduled to give a live speech Sunday night, but for unknown reasons the event was rescheduled from its usual prime time broadcast to later in the evening.
There was also fresh criticism over Ahmadinejad’s policies. Members of parliament Sunday threatened the president with impeachment over what they said was his abuse of power and illegal acts. The critics likened him to a dictator, pointing to his decisions over the weekend to merge eight government ministries and fire three top officials, the ministers of oil, welfare and industries, without parliament’s consent.
An influential lawmaker said that because of the “heavy difficulties” caused by the unprecedented anti-government protests that followed Ahmadinejad’s disputed 2009 election victory, parliament had spared him. But now, parliament will get tough with the president, Mohammad Reza Bahonar told the Majles News Web site, which belongs Bahonar’s political faction.
All options are open, the lawmaker said. “Legal purging starts with questions, which lead to warnings and end with impeachment,” he said.
The accusations illustrate a political shift that has taken place in Iran following a dispute between the president and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei over the forced resignation of the intelligence minister in April. The issue laid bare long-simmering dissatisfaction with Ahmadinejad’s confrontational policies among some of his top supporters.
While the rift is over the extent of presidential power, the criticism largely focuses on Ahmadinejad’s closest aide, Mashaei, who opponents say leads a “deviated” current that is planning to bring down Iran’s system of clerical rule.
“We must make the infatuated person [Ahmadinejad] aware of his mistakes and save him – that is if only natural causes are involved,” Mesbah Yazdi said.