Ahmadinejad Moves Ahead With Fresh Cabinet, But Old Challenges Linger
Farangis Najibullah, RFE/RL
Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad intends to
enter his second term in office with some surprising new additions to his team.
Two female candidates were among six ministerial nominees revealed by
Ahmadinejad on August 16. Fatemeh Ajorlou, a conservative lawmaker, was
nominated for the position of welfare minister. Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi, a
medical university professor and former parliamentarian, was nominated for the
post of health minister.
If approved by parliament, they would be the first women to reach such
high-ranking positions since the Iranian Revolution in 1979.
Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi
Would be the first
women to reach cabinet-level positions in government since the
Ahmadinejad has until August 19 to present his
new 21-member cabinet to the Majlis. He has promised significant changes to his
Mohammad Abbasi, a former lawmaker who served on the Majlis' budget commission,
was nominated as cooperation minister.
Heidar Moslehi, a former Velayat-e faqih (Rule of the Jurisprudent)
representative in the Revolutionary Guards and Basij forces, was nominated as
There were also some familiar faces among the cabinet nominations, including
current Industry and Mines Minister Ali Akbar Mehrabian and Economy Minister
Shamseddin Hossein, who would remain in their jobs.
Sayeed Jalili, a hard-line chief nuclear negotiator,
has reportedly been tabbed to take over as foreign minister.
Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani, the new chief of the judiciary
With the nominations, the Iranian president appears eager to move past the
turmoil that accompanied his disputed June 12 reelection. The official election
results, which saw Ahmadinejad win decisively, sparked mass protests that
resulted in the arrests of more than 3,000 protesters, political infighting, and
terse exchanges with outside governments, which Tehran accused of meddling in
its internal affairs.
However, Ahmadinejad still faces serious challenges from moderate rivals Mir
Hossein Musavi and Mehdi Karrubi, who continue to question the legitimacy of his
presidency, and even from traditional allies within Iran's ruling conservative
Iranian media has speculated about the potential for confrontations between
Ahmadinejad and forces within the conservative camp, particularly the new head
of Iran's judiciary, Sadeq Larijani, who officially started his new job on
According to the reformist website noandish.com, Larijani is expected to bring
two ministers who were dismissed by Ahmadinejad into his new team in the
One is Gholam Hussein Mohseni Eje'e, who in July was abruptly dismissed from his
post as intelligence minister after he criticized the president over his
controversial choice of Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie as his first vice-president last
Eje'e also opposed the government's decision to broadcast the mass trials of
detainees, saying they could spark negative reactions among the public.
The other to make the jump to the judiciary is Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi, who was
sacked as interior minister just ahead of the presidential campaign.
Taghi Rahmani, an Iranian author and political expert, predicts "there will be
confrontations between the president and judiciary during Ahmadinejad's second
term," adding that the president's "confrontational behavior" will be the source
However, Reza Taghizadeh, a British-based Iran expert, predicts that Supreme
Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei will step in to prevent any serious conflict
within the ruling conservative camp.
"Governments in the Islamic republic have a four-year mandate. The supreme
leader's establishment is more concerned about the future of its own,
monarchy-style system," Taghizadeh says. "Some of the government's aggressive
behavior is seen by the establishment as a factor that would damage society's
stability. Therefore, it tries to find to keep the balance in society, sometimes
by limiting the government's actions."
Accused Of Torture
Authorities are struggling with Iran's biggest political crisis in three
Karrubi recently accused authorities of torture and even sexual abuse of
detainees arrested in connection with the postelection turmoil. Tehran's
Prosecutor's Office on August 16 temporarily closed the newspaper of Karrubi's
party, "Etemad-e Melli."
Clotilde Reiss in court in Tehran on August 8
The authorities have vehemently rejected Karrubi's claims of abuse, but the
issue has become a lighting rod for criticism.
Tehran's Kahrizak prison was closed following allegations that a number of
detainees died after being beaten there.
At the order of the supreme leader, the Majlis recently set up a special
commission to assess the conditions endured by detainees. On August 17, the
parliamentary commission summoned the head of Iran's National Police, Esmail
Ahmadi Moghaddam, 12 officers at Tehran's Kahrizak prison, and a local
prosecutor to testify before the Majlis.
Hundreds of protesters, political activists, journalists, and lawyers are still
being held in Evin and other prisons.
More than 130 detainees, including many prominent opposition figures, have been
placed in three separate mass trials, which some foreign governments have
condemned as "show trials." Charges include acting against national security,
spying, fomenting public unrest, and vandalizing public property.
A 24-year-old French academic, Clotilde Reiss, was among those who appeared in a
Tehran revolutionary court last week on charges related to the postelection
unrest. She has been released on bail and turned over to the French Embassy in
However, charges against her were not dropped and it remains unclear whether she
would be allowed to leave the country.
Copyright (c) 2009 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org
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