Iran’s president was missing from a cabinet meeting on Wednesday for the second consecutive time adding to speculation that the rift with the country’s supreme leader was widening on Wednesday, agencies reported.
The rift is over President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s decision to dismiss Intelligence Minister Heidar Moslehi last week, a decision that was revoked by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Mr. Moslehi was present on Tuesday at a meeting of the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution, the body that regulates educational and cultural issues, and which he chairs, Agence-France Press reported.
Mr. Ahmadinejad’s absence in that meeting was particularly noted, as he is known for never missing any opportunity to appear in the media and delivery fiery speeches, AFP said.
No reason was given for his absence by the state’s media.
Earlier on Saturday, in a speech that aired on state TV, Mr. Khamenei said he would intervene in government’s affairs “whenever necessary”—a rebuke to the president for challenging his all-encompassing authority.
The power struggle between the two leaders could be indicative of a serious political crisis in the making—especially ahead of legislative elections scheduled for March 2012. The presidential election will take place in 2013.
Analysts told The Associated Press that Mr. Ahmadinejad is looking to control the intelligence ministry in a bid to influence the next parliament as well as to determine the next president.
However, Mr. Khamenei is also seen as intent on helping shape a new political team, free of Ahmadinejad loyalists, to lead the next government.
It looks like the ayatollah is flexing his muscles to remind Mad Mahmoud exactly what "supreme leader" means.
UPDATE: After I wrote this, AP wrote this up about the topic:
A hard-line cleric warned President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Friday to end an escalating power struggle with Iran's supreme leader, calling it a religious obligation to do so and accusing the country's enemies of trying to sow rifts among its leadership.
The split threatens to destabilize Iran at a time of tension with the West over Tehran's disputed nuclear program and appears to center on a battle for influence between the two men over next year's parliamentary election and a presidential election in 2013.
"Obedience to the supreme leader is a religious obligation as well as a legal obligation, without any doubt," said Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami. He did not mention Ahmadinejad by name, but it was clear he was referring to the president.
Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has the final word on all matters of state in Iran, and hard-liners consider him above the law and answerable only to God.
As David G wrote in the comments, "'Obedience?!' What does he think Ahmadinejad is? A woman?"