Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, has accused the country’s hardline religious leadership of deliberately provoking a confrontation with the West to weaken his position ahead of forthcoming parliamentary elections.
According to Western diplomats, in one recent outburst Mr Ahmadinejad denounced advisers working for Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s spiritual leader and the guardian of the country’s Islamic revolution, as “a bunch of madmen”.
In a series of recent meetings in Tehran, the Iranian president has repeatedly criticised policies pursued by officials loyal to Mr Khamenei, who include senior members of the Revolutionary Guards and the Basij paramilitary militia. Mr Ahmadinejad claims the supreme leader’s loyalists are deliberately provoking a confrontation with the West to make him look weak, thereby undermining his supporters’ prospects in elections to the Majlis, the Iranian parliament, which are to be held on March 2.
The claims come after, Ali Akbar Javanfekr, the president’s personal media adviser, was found guilty on Sunday by a Tehran court of insulting Mr Khamenei.
The court sentenced Mr Javanfekr, who runs Iran’s IRNA news agency, to a year in prison and a five-year ban on media and political activities for comments he made on his personal website. Mr Javanfekr yesterday denied the charge and said he would appeal against the verdict. “My adherence to the sage supreme leader is more apparent than the sun, and is backed by my record,” he said.
Mr Javanfekr’s conviction is the latest attempt by Mr Khamenei’s supporters to silence Mr Ahmadinejad, who has accused them of responsibility for the assault on the British Embassy in Tehran in November, and the failed assassination plot against the Saudi Arabian US ambassador. He also blames Khamenei loyalists for trying to prop up President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria, trying to provoke a confrontation with the West over the Strait of Hormuz, the main shipping route to the Gulf, and trying to sabotage ties with neighbouring Turkey.