Certain Iranian media have begun to speculate that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will ultimately support presidential candidate Saeed Jalili. Ahmadinejad has long supported his ally and chief of staff Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei for the presidency. However, Mashaei was disqualified by the Guardian Council to run.
The Alef website, which is close to traditional conservative parliament member Ahamd Tavakoli, mentioned the support of pro-Ahmadinejad for Jalili, and their immediate denial. Muhammad Sahimi covered and analyzed in Muftah the support of websites close to Ahmadinejad of Jalili’s candidacy. The Entekhab website, which is not friendly to Ahmadinejad, quoted an article from pan-Arab Al Hayat in which they claim that Mashaei has handed his campaign staff over to Jalili.
Foreign-based Persian-language website Digarban compiled a list of “15 reasons to prove that Saeed Jalili is Ahmadinejad’s final ultimate choice for the presidency.” The list is according to media coverage of conservatives, meaning traditional conservatives such as parliament members Ahmad Tavakoli and Ali Motahhari, who have been very critical of Ahmadinejad and his hard-line policies.
It is important to note that speculation about their closeness could also be an attempt to smear the hard-line Jalili by associating him with the unpopular Ahmadinejad. Also, intra-conservative or even intra-hard-liner battles in Iran are not uncommon and alliances and allegiances commonly change as the political fortunes of political leaders change.
Some, however, believe that Ahmadinejad’s unusual silence regarding Mashaei’s disqualification could indicate that he has other candidates or plans in mind.
The 15 reasons are as follows:
- Saeed Jalili was picked by Ahmadinejad to become the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council (and head of nuclear negotiations). Ahmadinejad removed Ali Larijani from this position.
- From the viewpoint of the clergy, Jalili is close to Ahmadinejad.
- Ahmadinejad has never spoken against Jalili.
- Jalili has never spoken against Ahmadinejad.
- Jalili has never spoken against the “deviant” movement and Mashaei.
- Mehdi Koochakzadeh and Hamid Rasaei (two Ahmadinejad allies) have supported Jalili.
- Some lesser known figures in Ahamdinejad’s staff have taken up responsibilities and positions in Jailili’s campaign staff in Tehran.
- The Endurance Front (under the leadership of Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi), which used to support Ahmadinejad, now supports Jalili. (Mesbah Yazdi and Ahamdinejad had a falling out in Ahmadinejad’s second term, but some speculate that the two still could be close.)
- Mohammad Hosseini, the current minister of culture, gave his explicit support of Jalili, with Ahmadinejad’s permission.
- Mohammad Ali Ramin, Ahmadinejad’s deputy media advisor, is in the group of Jalili supporters.
- The stated policies of Jalili are no different from the policies of Ahmadinejad.
- The supporters of Jalili have the same enemies as Ahmadinejad, including Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, Mohammad Khatami, Ali Larijani, traditional conservatives and the Motalafeh party.
- The filmmakers of the documentary “The Emergence is Near,” all extremist supporters of Mashaei and Ahmadinejad, are supporters of Jalili. (The controversial messianic documentary was made by supporters of Ahmadinejad, and claimed that Imam Mehdi would reappear. The film was attacked by traditional Shia clerics.)
- Praise for Jalili spouts from IRNA, Shabekeh Iran and Iran newspapers (all three of which are under the control of Ahmadinejad and his administration).
- Ahmadinejad and Jalili have not denied reports that Jalili is Ahmadinejad’s secret candidate.