Iranian President Warns Against Arrests of His Associates
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad today broke his silence on recent moves by judicial authorities against members of his cabinet and his close associates and wowed to defend them to the end. The cabinet is the “red line” that the authorities should not cross, he told reporters in Tehran, after chairing a meeting of his cabinet.
“I consider defending the cabinet as my duty. The cabinet is a red line and if they want to touch the cabinet, then defending it is my duty,” Ahmadinejad said [IRNA, 29 June].
“From our point of view these moves and pressures are political, (intended) to put pressure on the government,” said the president. “Our position is one of silence but if they want to continue it and under different pretexts want to accuse our colleagues in the cabinet, then I have a legal, national and ethical duty to defend my colleagues,” he added.
On Thursday, Mohammad Sharif Malekzadeh, a close associate of Ahmadinejad, was arrested on “financial charges” after he was forced to resign his post as deputy foreign minister. The Iranian parliament, Majlis, had threatened to impeach the foreign minister if Malekzadeh was not dismissed from his post.
The ultra conservatives in Iran have accused Ahmadinejad’s chief of staff and political confidant, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, and his close associates of working against the interests of the Islamic Republic, labeling them “deviationists.” Ahmadinejad has been under growing pressure to dump Mashaie and denounce and disassociate himself from the group. Influential members of the ruling conservative camp have also publicly threatened Ahmadinejad with impeachment if he does not end his association with the “deviationists.”
Aside from Malekzadeh, the judicial authorities have said in the past few days that they are investigating Ahmadinejad’s vice president, Hamid Baghaie, on charges of abusing power and that his arrest might be imminent. And that’s where Ahmadinejad was apparently drawing the “red line,” warning the authorities to take their hands off the senior members of his government.