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09/12/11

Playing with Khamenei in Syria's Field

By Farhad Alavi, Rooz Online

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s live interview on August 24th with al-Minar Television - the official mouthpiece of Lebanese Hezbollah - in which he discussed events in Syria resulted in much speculations. A behind-the-scenes source knowledgeable with the interview spoke to Rooz about the event.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad praying behind Ayatollah Khamenei during Eid Fitr in Tehran - August 2011
Ahmadinejad praying behind Ayatollah Khamenei during Eid Fitr in Tehran - August 2011 

Speaking on the occasion of the last Friday of the month of Ramadhan on the Alghoosein program, al-Minar agreed to respond to questions raised by Batool Ayub, the director of the station. During the interview, on the issue regarding the biggest challenge to the foreign policy of the Islamic republic of Iran in the Middle East which is the popular protests in Syria against Bashar Assad, Iran’s ally, Ahmadinejad took a position which is 180 degrees at odds with the announced views of the supreme leader of Iran.

At the interview, Ahmadinejad said, “The people and government of Syria had to sit together and come to an agreement on reforms.” He also said that the Syrian people must have the right to elections, freedom and justice, adding that a schedule should be agreed on this and the West not be allowed to intervene in its affairs.

“Westerners do not want reforms. They want to start a civil war. They do not support our people. All our problems come from their interference for the sake of Israel,” he said.

These remarks were made while ayatollah Khamenei had just a few weeks earlier publicly said that the protests in Syria were diversions and wrong. In his remarks, Iran’s leader said that, “the nature of events in Syria were different from those in other countries of the region,” adding, “The Americans are attempting to copy the events that have taken place in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and Libya in Syria and create problems for this country that is at the resistance front.”

Ahmadinejad’s remarks made through the Lebanese Hezbollah are clearly a departure from what Iran’s supreme leader has said which has prompted some to conclude that the position of the Islamic republic in its support for Bashar has changed and that Tehran no longer desires to be the main ally of Assad’s regime in Damascus. Others have of course said that the differences of views between Ahmadinejad and Khamenei are really the continuation of their different outlooks, and thus not new.

According to an informed source who spoke with Rooz, the position of the Islamic republic vis--vis Syria is still determined by ayatollah Khamenei and Ahmadinejad’s remarks were merely his way of getting some concession from the supreme leader in Iran’s domestic policies. This source told Rooz that a day before Ahmadinejad had his interview with al-Minar, the supreme leader’s advisor on international affairs former foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati had called Ahmadinejad and told him to maintain the same position as the supreme leader in his interview with al-Minar. Velayati, who knows Ahmadinejad’s temperament, told the chief executive that what he had told him was not his personal position but the instructions of his boss, the supreme leader. But during the interview, Ahmadinejad presented his own view, which differs from that of the supreme leader. This resulted in reports by some news sources such as Fars news agency, Javan Online and Mashreq - which all routinely present the views of the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), to quote “political experts” who announced their opposition to Ahmadinejad’s views.

Could Ahmadinejad who had received the support of ayatollah Khamenei over his foreign policy, been in fact sending a message to the ayatollah rather than to the Syrians and Assad? According to the source who spoke with Rooz, Ahmadinejad was basically saying that if Khamenei continued or increased his pressures on him, he too had some tools against the supreme leader.

Related News:

Ahmadinejad office rejects media claims on Syria - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's office rejected reports attributed to him on Syrian developments. Some media had claimed that Ahmadinejad in the interview has called for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to stop crackdown on people. - ISNA (9/12/2011)

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