Khamenei warned over Ahmadinejad slur
TEHRAN – Campaigning for Iran’s presidential election took a dramatic twist on Wednesday when a powerful cleric issued a rare warning to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, saying his silence over President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s “lies” could trigger social upheaval.
Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former president and the head of the Expediency Council — Iran’s top political arbitration body — protested to Khamenei over Ahmadinejad’s remark accusing his family of receiving financial privileges in the past.
Ahmadinejad, who is seeking a second term in Friday’s election, made the accusation during a stormy debate on state televison with his main rival, the moderate former prime minister Mir Hossein Mousavi.
A furious Rafsanjani fired off a letter to Khamenei, which was published in several newspapers, saying he had personally told Ahmadinejad to take back the remarks.
“I also asked state television to allocate time to defend those accused according to the law . . . but these suggestions were not accepted and the (supreme) leader chose to remain silent,” Rafsanjani wrote.
“Even if I keep quiet, part of the people, groups and parties will undoubtedly not bear this situation any more and set off social upheavals, examples of which can be seen in street rallies and universities.”
He said Ahmadinejad’s “irresponsible and untruthful remarks” were similiar to the “bitter remarks of monafeghin (hyporcrites) and anti-revolutionaries during the early years of the Islamic revolution.”
Rafsanjani, who was defeated by Ahmadinejad in the 2005 presidential election, urged Khamenei to resolve the spat, the latest example of mudslinging by Iranian leaders that has dogged the election campaign.
“I ask your eminence, given your position, responsibility and personality, to solve this problem and act in a way you deem right to take effective action in eliminating the mutiny,” he said.
Such a message to Khamenei is rare in the Islamic republic where the supreme leader is the ultimate authority and has the final say on all strategic issues.
The already tense situation is expected to intensify further after state television allocated all the four candidates slots later on Wednesday to express their views before campaigning ends Thursday at 8:00 am.
Earlier on Wednesday, Ahmadinejad said at an election rally in Tehran he will counter attacks on him by his rivals, adding he will “elaborate on their manipulation of graphs on television . . . and will respond to the allegations.”
He was referring graphs shown by Mousavi and another challenger, Mohsen Rezai, during their debates, indicating the weak state of the economy under Ahmadinejad.
Ahmadinejad himself painted a rosy picture of the economy of OPEC’s number two oil exporter with similar graphs during his debate with reformist rival Mehdi Karroubi.
The almost unprecedented televised debates between the candidates have become public platforms for mudslinging, allegations and counter allegations, underscoring deep differences ahead of Friday’s election.
Rafsanjani’s letter generated a mixed response among Iran’s clerics.
Around 50 clerics from Qom — Iran’s clerical nerve-centre — said in an open letter that “accusing people in a session when they are not present is contrary to Shariah,” referring to Ahmadinejad’s remarks against Rafsanjani which were made in the cleric’s absence.
“In addition to being illegal and contrary to Shariah, it will spread disappointment among the people and make our enemies happy.”
But Ayatollah Mohmmad Yazdi, head of the Qom Seminary School Scholars Association, said Rafsanjani’s letter “intensifies the tension in the society” and was “against the system and its sacred goals.”
A Tehran lawmaker and staunch Ahmadinejad supporter, Hamid Rasai, said Rafsanjani’s letter was a “spark of fire . . . and this threat to the supreme leader can not be understood.”
Meanwhile, the elite Revolutionary Guards Corps said its members, along with Iran’s volunteer Basij militia, “will make their decisive presence felt in the election on Friday.”
“Once again we will respond to the call of the (supreme) leader in having a glorious election.”