Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

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Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
محمود احمدی‌نژاد
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad  محمود احمدی‌نژاد
Order: Sixth President of Iran
First Vice President: Parviz Dawoodi
Term of office: August 3, 2005 – present
Preceded by: Mohammad Khatami
Succeeded by:
Date of birth: October 28, 1956
Place of birth: Aradan, Iran
Political party: Islamic Society of Engineers

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (محمود احمدی‌نژاد; born October 28, 1956), also written Ahmadinezhad, is the sixth President of Iran. He has been president since August 3, 2005.

Ahmadinejad was the mayor of Tehran from May 3, 2003 until June 28, 2005 when he was elected president. He is widely considered to be a religious conservative with Islamist and populist views. Ahmadinejad was a civil engineer and a professor at the Iran University of Science and Technology before his mayorship.

Politically, Ahmadinejad is a member of the Central Council of the Islamic Society of Engineers [1], but he has a more powerful base inside the Alliance of Builders of Islamic Iran (also known as Abadgaran). Ahmadinejad is considered one of the main figures in the alliance. The alliance was divided in supporting him and Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf in the first round of the presidential election, and while the members of the City Council of Tehran supported Ahmadinejad, the parliamentary representatives of Tehran supported Ghalibaf.



Ahmadinejad was elected President of Iran on June 24, 2005, in the second round of the 2005 presidential election over his rival, former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Ahmadinejad won with 61.69% of about twenty-eight million votes with an official turnout of about 59.6%, in an election his opponents claim were marred by allegations of voter fraud.

Before the first round of voting, some 1,000 candidates were disqualified by the Iranian Council of Guardians, leaving seven candidates to officially run in the first round. However, some basic requirements, such as being an experienced politician, are checked after registration, and people without qualifications are not banned from registering. Rafsanjani had won the highest number of votes in the first round, while Ahmadinejad had secured 19.48% of the votes as the runner-up. Ahmadinejad's win was attributed to the popularity of his simple lifestyle and populist views amongst the poor and lower classes which viewed him as an alternative to Rafsanjani. Proponents see him as a modest well-educated religious man whose power has not corrupted him. He has strong and wide support among both ordinary and educated people in the country. Ahmadinejad has chosen the most educated government of Iran compared to the previous presidents.


Ahmadinejad has generally sent mixed signals about his plans for his presidency, which some US-based analysts consider to have been designed to attract both religious conservatives and the lower economic classes. His campaign motto was "It's possible and we can do it" (می‌شود و می‌توانیم).

In his presidential campaign, Ahmadinejad had taken a populist approach, with emphasis on his own simple life, and had compared himself with Mohammad Ali Rajai, the second President of Iran — a claim that raised objections from Rajai's family. Ahmadinejad claims he plans to create an "exemplary government for the world people" in Iran. He is a self-described principlist; that is, acting politically based on Islamic and revolutionary principles. One of his goals is "putting the petroleum income on people's tables", referring to Iran's oil profits being distributed amongst the poor.

Ahmadinejad was the only presidential candidate who spoke out against future relations with the United States. Also, in an interview with the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting a few days before the elections, Ahmadinejad accused the United Nations of being "one-sided, stacked against the world of Islam." He has openly opposed the veto power given to the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. In the same interview, he mentioned that "It is not just for a few states to sit and veto global approvals. Should such a privilege continue to exist, the Muslim world with a population of nearly 1.5 billion should be extended the same privilege." In addition, he has defended Iran's nuclear program and has accused "a few arrogant powers" of attempting to limit Iran's industrial and technological development in this and other fields. In a question by a Shargh journalist about the release of political prisoners in case he becomes president, Ahmadinejad answered with a question: "Which political prisoners? The political prisoners in the United States?"

After his election he proclaimed, “Thanks to the blood of the martyrs, a new Islamic revolution has arisen and the Islamic revolution of 1384 [the current Iranian year] will, if God wills, cut off the roots of injustice in the world.” He said, “The wave of the Islamic revolution will soon reach the entire world.” [2]

During his campaign for the second round, he said, "We didn't participate in the revolution for turn-by-turn government [...] This revolution tries to reach a world-wide government" [3]. Also he has mentioned that he has an extended program on fighting terrorism in order to improve foreign relations and has called for greater ties with Iran's neighbours and ending visa requirements between states in the region, saying that "People should visit anywhere they wish freely. People should have freedom in their pilgrimages and tours."

Personal life and service

Born in the Arādān village near Garmsar, the son of a blacksmith, his family moved to Tehran when he was one year old. He entered Iran University of Science and Technology (IUST) as an undergraduate student of civil engineering in 1976. He continued his studies in the same university, entering the MSc program for civil engineering in 1986, the same time he joined the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (see below), and finally receiving his PhD in Traffic and transportation engineering and planning. The graduate program was a special program for the Revolutionary Guards members funded by the organization itself. After graduation, Ahmadinejad became a professor at the civil engineering department at IUST.

In 1979, Ahmadinejad was the head representative of IUST to the unofficial student gatherings that occasionally met with the Ayatollah Khomeini. In these sessions, the foundations of the first Office for Strengthening Unity (daftar-e tahkim-e vahdat), the student organization of which several members behind seizure of the United States embassy which led to the Iran hostage crisis, were created. Ahmadinejad became a member of the Office of Strengthening Unity. Before the seizure of the embassy, Ahmadinejad had suggested a simultaneous or similar attempt against the Soviet Union embassy, but was voted down, resulting in independent pursuit of the idea by its proponents.

During the Iran-Iraq war, Ahmadinejad joined the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps in 1986. After training at the headquarters, he saw action in extraterritorial covert operations against Kirkuk, Iraq. Later he also became the head engineer of the sixth army of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and the head of the Corps' staff in the western provinces of Iran. After the war, he served as vice governor and governor of Maku and Khoy, an Advisor to the Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance, and the governor of the then newly established Ardabil province from 1993 to October 1997.

Early political career

Ahmadinejad gave a warm welcome to Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez in his visit to Tehran in 2004.  In the visit, Chávez was welcomed with a new statue of Simon Bolivar, Venezuela's national hero, in the Goft-o-gou park in Tehran.
Ahmadinejad gave a warm welcome to Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez in his visit to Tehran in 2004. In the visit, Chávez was welcomed with a new statue of Simon Bolivar, Venezuela's national hero, in the Goft-o-gou park in Tehran.

Ahmadinejad was mostly an unknown figure in Iranian politics until he was elected Mayor of Tehran by the second City Council of Tehran on May 3, 2003, after a 12% turnout led to the election of the conservative candidates of Alliance of Builders of Islamic Iran in Tehran. During his mayorship, he reversed many of the changes put into effect by previous moderate and reformist mayors, putting serious religious emphasis on the activites of the cultural centers founded by previous mayors, going on the record with the separation of elevators for men and women in the municipality offices [4] and suggesting that the bodies of those killed in the Iran-Iraq war be buried in major city squares of Tehran. Such actions were coupled with popular acts, such as distributing free soup to the poor.

As the Mayor of Tehran, Ahmadinejad also became the manager in charge of the daily newspaper Hamshahri, dismissing Mohammad Atrianfar as the editor and replacing him with Alireza Sheikh-Attar. Ahmadinejad subsequently fired Sheikh-Attar on June 13, 2005, a few days before the presidential elections, for not supporting him for the post, replacing Sheikh-Attar with Ali Asghar Ash'ari, a previous Vice Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance during the ministership of Mostafa Mirsalim. He fired Nafiseh Kouhnavard, one of Hamshahri's journalists, for asking Khatami about the "red lines" of the regime and illegal parallel intelligence agencies, a question Ahmadinejad didn't consider appropriate. Kouhnavard was later accused of by hard-liners of spying for Turkey and the Republic of Azerbaijan. [5]

Ahmadinejad is known to have quarreled with Khatami, who then barred him from attending meetings of the Board of Ministers, a privilege usually extended to mayors of Tehran. He has publicly criticized Khatami for ignorance of the daily problems of the general public.

After two years as Tehran mayor, Ahmadinejad was shortlisted in a list of sixty-five finalists for World Mayor 2005 [6] out of the 550 nominated mayors. Only nine mayors were from Asia.

Ahmadinejad resigned from his post as the mayor of Tehran after his election to the presidency. His resignation was accepted on June 28, 2005 and in September 2005, the Tehran City Council elected Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf with 8 out of 15 votes as the 12th Mayor of Tehran.


Ahmadinejad showing his appreciation to Ayatollah Khamenei
Ahmadinejad showing his appreciation to Ayatollah Khamenei
Khatami and Ahmadinejad, hand in hand, during the handing of the presidency offices.
Khatami and Ahmadinejad, hand in hand, during the handing of the presidency offices.
Ahmadinejad meeting Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary-general of Hezbollah, on August 1, 2005
Ahmadinejad meeting Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary-general of Hezbollah, on August 1, 2005

Ahmadinejad became the president of Iran on August 3, 2005, receiving the approval of Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, during which celebration he kissed the hand of Khamenei, the first Iranian president who has kissed Khamenei's hand and the second Iranian president to kiss a supreme leader's hand (the first was Mohammad Ali Rajai, who kissed the Ayatollah Khomeini's hand). Ahmadinejad was widely perceived at the time of his election to be Khamenei's protege.[7].

In the first announcement after his presidency, Ahmadinejad asked the public servants not to post his photographs and pictures in governmental offices and use the pictures and photos of Ayatollah Khomeini and Ayatollah Khamenei only.

Ahmadinejad completed the requisite ceremonies of becoming president on August 6, when he took vow before the Majlis to protect Iran's official religion (Shia Islam), the Islamic Republic regime, constitution. From August 3 to August 6, Mohammad Reza Aref, Khatami's First Vice President, was Acting President.

Ahmadinejad's ministers

Ahmadinejad was required to introduce his suggested ministers to Majlis for a vote of approval in fifteen days, after which Majlis would have one week to decide about the ministers. It was mentioned by Masoud Zaribafan, Ahmadinejad's campaign manager, that Ahmadinejad would probably introduce his cabinet on the same day of his vow, which did not happen, but the list was finally sent to the Majlis on August 14. The Majlis were set to vote on the suggested ministers by August 21.

The parliament had held a private meeting on August 5, when Ahmadinejad presented a shortlist of three or four candidates for each ministry, to know the opinion of Majlis about his candidates. A news website close to Ahmadinejad published a partial list of Ahmadinejad's decisions based on the feedback, which was updated and changed a few times [8]. The final list was officially sent to the Majlis on August 14, 2005.

After a few days of heavy discussions in Majlis, which started on August 21, 2005, Ahmadinejad's cabinet was voted for on August 24, 2005, and became the first cabinet since the Iranian revolution in not winning a complete vote of approval. Four candidates, for the ministries of Cooperatives, Education, Petroleum, and Welfare and Social Security, all previous colleagues of Ahmadinejad in the Municipality of Tehran, were voted down. The other candidates became ministers.

The list of suggested ministers and their votes went [9]:

Ministry Candidate minister Approvals Denials Abstentions
Agricultural Mohammad Reza Eskandari (Persian bio) 214 45 24
Commerce Masoud Mirkazemi 169 85 25
Communication and Information Technology Mohammad Soleimani 220 43 16
Cooperatives Alireza Ali-Ahmadi 105 134 34
Culture and Islamic Guidance Mohammad Hossein Saffar Harandi 181 78 20
Defense and Logistics Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar 205 55 17
Economy and Financial Affairs Davoud Danesh-Jafari (Persian bio) 216 47 19
Education Ali Akbar Ash'ari (Persian bio) 73 175 31
Energy Parviz Fattah (Persian bio) 194 56 23
Foreign Affairs Manouchehr Mottaki (Persian bio) 220 47 16
Health and Medical Education Kamran Bagheri Lankarani (Persian bio) 169 86 27
Housing and Urban Development Mohammad Saeedikia 222 31 25
Industries and Mines Alireza Tahmasbi 182 58 30
Intelligence Gholamhossein Mohseni Ezhei (Persian bio) 217 51 13
Interior Mostafa Pourmohammadi (Persian bio) 153 90 31
Justice Jamal Karimi-Rad (Persian bio) 191 59 24
Labour and Social Affairs Mohammad Jahromi 197 59 20
Petroleum Ali Saeedlou 101 133 38
Roads and Transportation Mohammad Rahmati (Persian bio) 214 43 21
Science, Research, and Technology Mohammad Mehdi Zahedi (Persian bio) 144 101 35
Welfare and Social Security Mehdi Hashemi 131 108 36

The new board of ministers held its first meeting on August 25 in Mashhad, promising to keep frequent meetings to cities other than the capital, Tehran. Temporary supervisors for two of the four ministries without new ministers were appointed by Ahmadinejad on August 27, Mohammad Nazemi Ardakani for the Ministry of Cooperatives and Davoud Madadi for the Ministry of Welfare and Social Security.

Reza Love Fund

Ahmadinejad's first piece of legislation to emerge from his newly formed government was a 12 trillion rial (1.3 billion American Dollars) "Reza Love Fund", which was named after one of Shiite Islam's Imams. By tapping into Iran's huge oil revenues, Ahmadinejad's government plans to use this fund in order to help young people get a job, get married, and get a home. The fund also sought charitable donations, and includes boards of trustees in each of Iran's 30 provinces. The new plan is subject to the approval of the conservative-held parliament, but is seen as unlikely to encounter strong opposition given deputies in the Majlis have also shown an eagerness to focus on resolving economic problems. This piece of legislation was in response to the costly housing in urban centres which is pushing up the national average marital age, which currently is around 25 for women and 28 for men. This was the first example of Ahmadinejad's attempting to fulfill his promise of "bringing oil money to the Iranian people's plates".

Opposition and allegations

Many reformist and independent political parties, including some of those who boycotted the first round of the presidential election, have called for an alliance against Ahmadinejad, calling it "a national alliance against fascism". For example, IIPF has asked for people voting in the second round to "prevent the danger of a rise of religious fascism" and the Mojahedin of the Islamic Revolution Organization. [10] Critics, including some independent ones, have mentioned that while there are some similarities between the actions and rising of supporters of Ahmadinejad with those of fascism, the movement differs because it is neither nationalistic nor racist and lacks corporatism.

Many critics call his political platform "fictional socialism."

On June 29, 2005, shortly after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won the Iranian presidential election, several major western news outlets have publicized various allegations against him. These include charges that he participated heavily in the 1979-1981 Iran Hostage Crisis, assassinations of Kurdish politicians in Austria, and executions of political prisoners in the Evin prison in Tehran. Ahmadinejad and his political supporters have denied these allegations. Additionally, a number of Ahmadinejad's political opponents in Iran have specifically denied allegations of his participation in the Iran Hostage Crisis. In July of 2005, US President George W. Bush declared that these charges were serious and must be investigated; as of the end of July, the US government continues investigating the charges (Reuters). The Iranian government stated that the allegations circulating against Ahmadinejad in the Western media are merely part of a smear campaign orchestrated by the United States and what Iranian officials have referred to as "Zionist media," directed against Ahmadinejad in specific and Iran in general. As of July of 2005, no independent commission has surfaced to investigate these charges and pronounce its findings.

From before the second round of the election, in late July 2005, there have also been allegations of political corruption from Ahmadinejad's political opponents in Iran, especially from the reformists.

Alleged involvement in the 1979 Hostage Crisis

With Ahmadinejad's recent publicity, former U.S. hostages Dr. William Daugherty (who worked for the CIA in Iran), Kevin Hermening, David Roeder, US Army Col. Charles Scott (Ret.), and US Navy Capt. Donald Sharer (Ret.) have alleged that Ahmadinejad was one of the leaders of the Iran Hostage Crisis at the U.S. embassy in Tehran, during their 444-day captivity starting on November 4, 1979. All of the above-mentioned hostages have claimed that they are certain that Ahmadinejad is the man whom they remember from their captivity.

Col. Charles Scott, now seventy-three, recently told the Washington Times [11] that "He was one of the top two or three leaders; the new president of Iran is a terrorist." Col. Scott claimed to recall an incident when Ahmadinejad berated a friendly Iranian guard who had allowed the two Americans to visit another U.S. hostage in a neighboring cell. Col. Scott, who understands Persian, said Ahmadinejad told the guard: "You shouldn't let these pigs out of their cells". Donald Sharer, a retired Navy captain who was for a time a cellmate of Col. Scott at the Evin prison in northern Tehran, remembered Ahmadinejad as "a hard-liner, a cruel individual". "I know he was an interrogator", said Capt. Sharer, now 64. Former hostages William Daugherty and Kevin Hermening also claim he was involved.

Scott and Roeder have also expressed certainty that Ahmadinejad was present at their interrogations. Scott asserted his certainty forcefully, stating: "This is the guy. There's no question about it. You could make him a blond and shave his whiskers, put him in a zoot suit and I'd still spot him." Both men, along with Sharer and Hermening, have stated their recollections of Ahmadinejad as an "extremely cruel" ringleader. Of the above men, only Hermening has expressed that he was not immediately sure that Ahmadinejad was involved in the Hostage Crisis.

However, former hostages USAF Col. Thomas E. Schaefer (Ret.), Paul Lewis (a former Marine embassy guard), and Barry Rosen (former embassy press attache) have expressed uncertainty regarding whether Ahmadinejad was actually involved. Schaefer stated that he does not recall Ahmadinejad by face or name, and Lewis expressed noticing a vague familiarity upon seeing Ahmadinejad's picture, but said that he could not be sure if Ahmadinejad was actually the same person as his captor. "My memories were more of the gun barrel, not the people behind it", stated Lewis. Rosen, while not claiming to personally recognize Ahmadinejad, professes to believe those who do claim to recognize the new Iranian President-elect. "When you're in a situation like that… it doesn't go away" Rosen stated.

In a September, 2005 interview of Ray Takeyh, a senior fellow on the Washington based Council on Foreign Relations, discussed his opinions on the above allegations, stating:

"There is no evidence to suggest that Ahmadinejad was one of the captors during the 1979 hostage-taking at the U.S. embassy in Tehran; the CIA itself has suggested he was not part of it. But here you get into a tricky position because the Bush administration is unwilling to contradict the American hostages. Five of the hostages have claimed that Ahmadinejad was one of their captors. The CIA, after a laborious investigation, has not accepted that claim. But politically, it's difficult for the Bush administration to take a position different from those who suffered 444 days of captivity."

Many of the former hostage takers have stated unequivocally that Ahmadinejad was in no way involved in the Hostage Crisis. One of them, Bijan Abidi, said that Ahmadinejad "was not involved." He added, "There was no one by that name among the students who took part in the U.S. Embassy seizure." Mohsen Mirdamadi, one of the student leaders, and Masoumeh Ebtekar, the spokeswoman of the students who later became a Vice President under President Khatami, have also denied Ahmadinejad's involvement. Abbas Abdi, another leader of the 1979 embassy takeover, and a political opponent of Ahmadinejad, expressed certainty that Ahmadinejad was not involved. "Definitely he was not among the students who took part in the seizure," Abdi said. "He was not part of us. He played no role in the seizure, let alone being responsible for security [for the students]." Rosen has stated that Abdi lacks credibility on this issue. Rosen reported that Abdi told him personally during a 1998 meeting in Paris that Abdi, while heavily involved in the embassy takeover, was never actually inside the embassy building. "So he can't maintain that [Ahmadinejad] was or wasn't," Rosen stated.

An aide to Ahmadinejad, Meisam Rowhani, denied all claims that Ahmadinejad was involved in the Hostage Crisis. Rowhani stated that Ahmadinejad was asked during recent private meetings if he had a role in the hostage taking. Rowhani said he replied, "No. I believed that if we do that the world will swallow us." Although Ahmadinejad has publicly expressed support for the hostage taking, he has claimed that he only supported the embassy takeover after Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini expressed support, and that he was never actually involved.

About the leadership of the takeover, Shargh has mentioned that the three main leaders of the takeover were Ebrahim Asgharzadeh, Mohsen Mirdamadi, and Habibollah Bitaraf (two of which have already denied Ahmadinejad's involvement). This has been confirmed by several sources involved in the takeover, including Ebtekar.

The Iran Focus photograph controversy

Iran Focus originally claimed that they had obtained a photograph (above) of a younger Ahmadinejad with a hostage, which was quickly published by the major Western news agencies AP, Reuters, and AFP. The publication has drawn criticism from many people who point out that the picture was presented to the world without due investigation or verification.

In response to this, Saeed Hajjarian, a reformist politician and a critic of Ahmadinejad, a previous advisor to President Mohammad Khatami with a background in intelligence in founding the Ministry of Intelligence of Iran, has denied that the picture is Ahmadinejad. Hajjarian has told Associated Press and later ISNA that the person in the photograph is not Ahmadinejad but a student named Taghi Mohammadi. Hajjarian also denied allegations about Ahmadinejad's role in slaying Kurdish opposition leaders in Vienna [12]. The Associated Press and other sources originally reported that Mohammadi later turned into a dissident, was arrested for being connected to MKO, was involved in the assassination of President Mohammad Ali Rajai and Prime Minister Mohammad Javad Bahonar, and committed suicide in jail [13]. However, Hajjarian responded to ISNA that Mohammadi was not a dissident but a supporter of the Iranian government, that he had even been the Iranian Envoy to Afghanistan for a while, and that Mohammadi was not jailed but "died in a suspicious way". Hajjarian also mentioned that AP has incorrectly called him an advisor to the president, though he hasn't held that title for a few years [14].

It should be noted that Hajjarian's report contradicts that of Ebrahim Asgharzadeh, one of the spokesmen for the hostage-taking students. He identified as "Ranjbaran" the same person Asgharzadeh claims was hanged for being a spy for MKO. But both Asgharzadeh and Hajjarian have recognized the person standing on the other side of the hostage as "Jafar Zaker", who was killed during the Iran-Iraq War. [15].

Only July 2, 2005 the LA Times reported the following about the photo originally circulated by Iran Focus: "A U.S. official familiar with the investigation of Ahmadinejad's role said that analysts had found "serious discrepancies" between the figure depicted in the 1979 photo and images of the Iranian president. The discrepancies included differences in facial structure and features, the official said." [16].

Regarding this widely published photograph, a U.S. official who declined to be identified said there were "significant discrepancies" in some of the facial features between the man in the photo and Iran's president-elect. The photo evidence supposedly showing Ahmadinejad as a hostage-taker was considered by most western journalists to be highly unconvincing.

Kurdish-Austrian accusations

Peter Pilz, an Austrian politician and former spokesman of the Austrian Green Party, has alleged Ahmadinejad possibly had a hand in international assassinations ordered by the Iranian government against political opposition groups [17], including a 1989 assassination of exiled Kurdish leader Abdolrahman Ghassemlou and two of his associates in Vienna. After Ahmadinejad's election to presidency, in early July 2005, Pilz passed his documents about his claims to the Austrian Interior ministry, which "were then forwarded to the state prosecutor's office" [18].

This allegation has been denied by several sources in Iran, including Saeed Hajjarian, a political opponent of Ahmadinejad [19]. Also notable among the deniers, is Ali Rabiee, the intelligence advisor to the reformist President Khatami, who stated "during the mentioned accident happened, I was present in action regions of northwest and western Iran, and at that time Mr Ahmadinejad was only involved at the civil construction work in the governing offices of Maku and the province". At the same time, the allegation has been echoed by a spokesman for the People's Mujahedin of Iran, a militant opposition group in exile.

Reuters has mentioned that information [Pilz] received from an "extraordinarily credible" informer, an Iranian journalist living in France who Pilz calls only "witness D". […] Witness D's information came from one of the alleged gunmen, who contacted Witness D in 2001 but later drowned, Pilz said. [20] Supporters of Ahmadinejad have questioned the credibility of such information, have mentioned that Pilz is a Jew, and have called the media reporting these to be "Zionist media". Also, Hamid Reza Asefi, the spokesman of the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said that "The charges are so self-evidently false they are not worthy of response. […] We advise the Europeans not to fall into the trap of the Zionist media and to separate their interests from America and the Zionist entity" (Israel). [21]

Also, observers have been skeptical of Pilz's allegations after he refused to disclose any evidence claiming that it would endanger the life of the witness. Also, the accusations have died down after the presidential election, and no clear evidence has been provided that would support the accusations.

Political dissent

During the Iranian presidential election of 2005, some people, including Mehdi Karroubi, a reformist candidate who ranked third in the election, have alleged that a network of mosques, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, and Basij militia forces, have been illegally used to generate and mobilize support for Ahmadinejad. Karroubi has explicitly alleged that Mojtaba Khamenei, a son of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, is among the conspirators. Ahmadinejad's supporters consider these to be false allegations. Furthermore, Khamenei has written to Karroubi stating that his allegations are "below his dignity" and "will result in a crisis" in Iran, which he will not allow. As a reply, Karroubi resigned from all his political posts, including his positions as an advisor to the Supreme Leader and as a member of the Expediency Discernment Council, both of which he had been appointed to directly by Khamenei. [22] Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Ahmadinejad's rival in the second round, has also pointed to what he claims are "organized and unjust" interventions conducted by "guiding" the votes, and has supported Karroubi's complaint. [23]. Rafsanjani also alleged a "dirty tricks" campaign had "illegally" propelled Ahmadinejad into the presidency, an allegation which he strongly denies. In the same statement, Rafsanjani stated that he would only appeal the election results to "God", and recommended accepting the results and "assisting" the new president-elect.

Some political groups, including the reformist party Islamic Iran Participation Front (IIPF), allege that Ahmadinejad received illegal support and advertising activities from supervisors selected by the Guardian Council who should have remained nonpartisan according to the election law. [24] Also, the reformist newspaper Shargh pointed out an announcement by Movahhedi Kermani, the official representative of the Supreme Leader in the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, who was quoted as saying, "vote for a person who keeps to the minimum in his advertisements and doesn't lavish," which uniquely pointed to Ahmadinejad, whose supporters claimed is not wealthy.

Foreign policy positions

Call for the destruction of the Israeli state

President Ahmadinejad speaking in "The World without Zionism" conference
President Ahmadinejad speaking in "The World without Zionism" conference

During the "World Without Zionism" student conference in October 2005, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, quoting Ayatollah Khomeini the late Supreme Leader of Iran, called Israel a "disgraceful blot" that ought to be "wiped off the map." He went on to decry attempts to normalize relations with Israel and condemned all Islamic leaders who recognize Israel's existence as "acknowledging a surrender and defeat of the Islamic world"; many believe this attack was aimed at nearby nations Qatar, Bahrain, and Pakistan, who have taken steps towards improving relations with Israel.

Ahmadinejad has stated that he believes Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip to be a trick, designed to gain acknowledgement from Islamic states. While it is not uncommon for Iranian politicians to condemn Israel, Ahmadinejad's stance appears to be harsher than those of recent predecessors. [25] In a rally held two days later, Ahmadinejad declared that his words were "the Iranian nation's words," adding that "[w]esterners are free to comment, but their reactions are invalid." [26]

The day immediately following Ahmadinejad's statements, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon called for Iran to be expelled from the United Nations and Israel's Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council. In that meeting, all fifteen members condemned Ahmadinejad's remarks. Kofi Annan said he was dismayed by the comments, and reiterated Iran's obligations and Israel's right of existence under the UN Charter. EU leaders issued a strong condemnation of the Iranian President's remarks, stating that "[c]alls for violence, and for the destruction of any state, are manifestly inconsistent with any claim to be a mature and responsible member of the international community." Meanwhile, the White House responded by saying Ahmadinejad's rhetoric showed that it was correct in trying to halt Iran's nuclear program. However, Ahmadinejad has denied that his statements indicate a desire to military attack Israel and it should be noted that the Iranian President does not have the ability to declare war with another nation, as the President of Iran has no control over the nation's armed forces, since those powers are reserved for the Supreme Leader.

In Iran, supporters of Ahmadinejad's comments have said that there is nothing new about his statements and that the West has overreacted in order to try to smear Iran's image [27]. Further, his calls against Israel come after intense Israeli pressure for the invasion of Iran [28]. They also state that similar views have been previously expressed by the current and previous Supreme Leaders of Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei and Ayatollah Khomeini. The Iranian Ambassador to the EU, Ali Ahani, called the tough political reactions in Europe against Ahmadinejad as "unrealistic and premature", complaining about the discriminatory treatment of the international community, which Iran feels has continued to ignore the threats of Israel and its "organized campaign to provoke others into attacking Iran's facilities and infrastructure", referring to Israel's support of an American attack on Iran.[29]

See also Iran-Israel relations.

Improving relations with Russia

Ahmadinejad has taken moves to help strengthen relations with Russia, setting up a headquarters expressly dedicated to the purpose in October 2005. He has worked with Vladimir Putin on resolving the Iran nuclear issue and both Putin and Ahmadinejad have expressed a desire for more mutual cooperation on issues involving the Caspian Sea.[30]

External links

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Election and profile

Criticism and allegations

Reactions to comment on Israel

Preceded by:
Mohammad Khatami
President of the Islamic Republic of Iran
Succeeded by:
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