TEHRAN — A member of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s inner circle was arrested Thursday, two days after he resigned from a key position in the foreign ministry, the semi-official Fars news agency reported.
The arrest of Mohammad Sharif Malekzadeh is another sign that the president’s most trusted advisers are under increasing pressure from the same clerics and military commanders who were once were instrumental in bringing Ahmadinejad to power.
The immediate cause of Malekzadeh’s arrest is unknown. According to Iran’s judiciary, more than a dozen people close to the president have been arrested since April.
Malekzadeh resigned Tuesday as the new deputy to Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi. Malekzadeh is the secretary of the High Council of Iranian Affairs Abroad, an organization set up by Ahmadinejad’s controversial chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei.
Ahmadinejad faces calls by Iran’s establishment to break all ties with Mashaei and other aides, who are referred to in state media as members of a “deviant” group that aims to push clerics from power.
When Malekzadeh was appointed deputy foreign minister on Sunday, the intelligence ministry objected, saying he was “not qualified.”