After many months of infighting and pressure from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, it seems that Iran’s Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki has decided that he has had enough and is going to resign. According to a report from the Tehran-based Iran Diplomacy news agency, Mottaki will be leaving his post after the upcoming Majles (parliament) elections, scheduled for March 14.
What the report goes on to say has more worrying implications for the West. Apparently, his replacement will be none other than Mojtaba Samare Hashemi. Referred to as “brother Samare” by Iran’s president, he is known for being Ahmadinejad’s mentor and the leading messianic operating inside Iran’s political circles since the early 90s. He is also known for his fierce dedication to Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, who is Iran’s leading messianic cleric. Since his entry into politics after the end of the Iran-Iraq war, Samare has dedicated himself to nurturing the careers of messianic politicians. One of his famous successes is none other than Mahmoud Ahmadinejad himself, whom he brought to the Iranian Foreign Ministry for a brief period in the mid 90s. From there, with the support of Samare, Ahmadinejad climbed the ladders of power, ultimately leading him to the presidency. Among his other notable successes is Saeed Jalili, a dedicated messianic who replaced Ali Larijani as the head of Iran’s nuclear negotiation team.
Since his election as Iran’s president in August 2005, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has tried to consolidate his power within Iran’s political hierarchy by appointing as many of his allies as possible to the cabinet. This was not an easy task. Although in theory it is the job of the president to nominate his choices for all ministerial posts, some of the positions are in fact picked by the supreme leader. These are the posts of Minister of Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Intelligence.
The Majles members know this, and this is one of the reasons they do not dispute the nominations for these posts — they know that these are suggestions from Iran’s most powerful man.
Mottaki was one such nomination. Ahmadinejad’s problem was that one of Mottaki’s posts prior to becoming Minister of Foreign Affairs was campaign manager for Ali Larijani during the 2005 presidential elections. Ahmadinejad and Larijani have been competitors for a long time. Once Ahmadinejad managed to get rid of Larijani in November 2007, Mottaki was viewed more and more by the president as a potential Judas. Therefore he did everything to make life as hard for him as possible. One recent dispute which seems to have brought things to a head is Ahmadinejad summoning the Iranian ambassador to Italy over his weak performance, without any form of consultation with Mottaki.
Dubbed the “Iranian Rasputin” because of his influence as Ahmadinejad’s advisor, Samare seems to be putting the pieces in place for his new post. This week he made his first full solo appearance in front of the foreign press, by appearing at the “Understanding Iran’s Foreign Policy” panel in Davos. He had never before taken part in such occasions without Ahmadinejad.
Opening his Davos speech with the words “may God speed up the return of the Mahdi”, Samare is a man to be feared. He is vehemently anti-Western and anti-Israel. He also has no patience or sympathy for Iran’s reformists. Worryingly, Samare belongs to the small yet seemingly powerful group of apocalyptic politicians who are consolidating their power in Iran’s current government. These messianics, which also include Iran’s Intelligence Minister (Ejehi) and Interior Minister (Pour Mohammadi), are the most extreme political elements that post-revolution Iran has ever had. Their apparent growth in power and influence is a signal to the West that despite the NIE report, Iran is in no mood for compromise. If anything, the current Iranian government is becoming even more extremist than before.
Meir Javedanfar is the co-author of the upcoming book The Nuclear Sphinx of Tehran – Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the State of Iran. He runs Middle East Economic and Political Analysis (Meepas)