Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei

Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei

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Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei is a top adviser, and close confident of Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

ian President
President of Iran
The President of Iran is the highest popularly elected official in, and the head of government of the Islamic Republic of Iran; although subordinate to the Supreme Leader of Iran, who functions as the country's head of state...

 Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He is currently Ahmadinejad's Chief of Staff. He served as the head of the Presidential Center from 2009 to 2011, and was First Vice President of Iran
Vice President of Iran
Vice President of Iran is defined by article 124 of the Iranian constitution, as anyone appointed by the President to lead an organization related to Presidential affairs. , there are 12 Vice Presidents in Iran...

 for one week in 2009 before he was ordered removed from that post by Supreme Leader
Supreme Leader of Iran
The Supreme Leader of Iran is the highest ranking political and religious authority in the Islamic Republic of Iran. The post was established by the constitution in accordance with the concept of Guardianship of the Islamic Jurists...

 Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
Ali Khamenei
Ayatollah Seyed Ali Hoseyni Khāmene’i is the Supreme Leader of Iran and the figurative head of the Muslim conservative establishment in Iran and Twelver Shi'a marja...

. He has been widely criticized by Iranian conservatives for alleged "deviant" tendencies.

Mashaei has been described as a "Religious-Nationalist" who actively promotes nationalist
Iranian nationalism
Iranian nationalism refers to nationalism among the people of Iran and individuals whose national identity is Iranian. Iranian nationalism consists of political and social movements and sentiments prompted by a love for Iranian culture, language and history, and a sense of pride in Iran and...

ic themes and ideas, and puts emphasis on Iran's pre-Islamic past, much to the disdain of the Islamic Republic's conservative establishment. He has also been called a pragmatic, moderate
Moderate
In politics and religion, a moderate is an individual who is not extreme, partisan or radical. In recent years, political moderates has gained traction as a buzzword....

 Conservative with "liberal views on cultural and social issues".

Background


He was born on 16 November 1960 in Katalom, Ramsar
Ramsar
Ramsar is a city in and the capital of Ramsar County, Mazandaran Province, Iran. At the 2006 census, its population was 31,659, in 9,421 families....

, Mazandaran Province
Mazandaran Province
Mazandaran Province is a Caspian province in the north of Iran. Located on the southern coast of the Caspian Sea, it is bordered clockwise by the Golestan, Semnan, Tehran, Alborz, Qazvin, and Gilan provinces....

. His father, Rahim was a businessman in their city. Mashaei studied electrical engineering and holds a bachelor's degree from Isfahan University of Technology
Isfahan University of Technology
Isfahan University of Technology is one of the most prestigious engineering universities in Iran. It is located 15 Kilometers north west of Isfahan and is one of the major universities and research poles in Iran in the fields of science, engineering and agriculture...

.
In 1984, during the Iran-Iraq War
Iran-Iraq War
The Iran–Iraq War was an armed conflict between the armed forces of Iraq and Iran, lasting from September 1980 to August 1988, making it the longest conventional war of the twentieth century...

, Mashaei joined the Intelligence Ministry in Kurdistan, where he met Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, then governor of the northwestern city of Khoy. The two men developed a close friendship and Mashaei has been described as the President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's "comrade" during that time. After Ahmadinejad was elected president in 2005, Mashaei became an influential member of the cabinet. He was appointed on 31 December 2007 to run the newly founded National Center for Research on Globalization. He is a former head of the Cultural Heritage Organization of Iran
Cultural Heritage Organization of Iran
Iran Cultural Heritage, Handcrafts and Tourism Organization is an educational and research institution overseeing numerous associated museum complexes throughout Iran. It is administered and funded by the Government of Iran....

, and previously served briefly as a deputy interior minister.

Mashaei's daughter married President Ahmadinejad's oldest son in 2008.

Career and activities


According to Associated Press, Mashaei appears to be the "core" of the dispute between President Ahmadinejad and religious hard-liners in Iran. Mashaei's views, such as his statement that Iran’s ideology "should take precedent over promoting Islam on the world stage", have "outraged hard-liners" and brought a dispute between the president and parliament.

Views and controversies


In 2007, Mashaei controversially attended a ceremony in Turkey where women performed a traditional dance. Conservative interpretations of Islam prohibit dancing by women.

In 2008, he hosted a ceremony in Tehran in which several women played tambourines while another carried the Koran to a podium to recite verses from the Muslim holy book. Hard-liners viewed the festive mood as disrespectful to the Koran.

Mashaei also made public statements which some considered pro-Israel, when he said that Iranians are “friends of all people in the world—even Israelis”, and that any conflict was with the Israeli Government only. In another occasion he said: "No nation in the world is our enemy, Iran is a friend of the nation in the United States and in Israel, and this is an honor." He received criticisms from clerics, conservative members of the Iranian Parliament
Majlis of Iran
The National Consultative Assembly of Iran , also called The Iranian Parliament or People's House, is the national legislative body of Iran...

and Iran's Supreme Leader
Supreme Leader of Iran
The Supreme Leader of Iran is the highest ranking political and religious authority in the Islamic Republic of Iran. The post was established by the constitution in accordance with the concept of Guardianship of the Islamic Jurists...

 Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
Ali Khamenei
Ayatollah Seyed Ali Hoseyni Khāmene’i is the Supreme Leader of Iran and the figurative head of the Muslim conservative establishment in Iran and Twelver Shi'a marja...

 who called the comments about Israelis "illogical". However, his comments received some cautious backing from Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. However, Mashaei has also said that if Israel attacked Iran, Iran could destroy it within a week. In a 20 May 2010 statement his exact words were "Zionists will have no longer than a week to live".

On August 6, 2010, Mashaei again drew protests from Iran's conservative establishment after speaking at a meeting with Iranian expatriates. He said that the ideology of Iran, rather than Iran's state religion of Shia Islam, should be promoted to the world. He also asserted that the country only acknowledged the "pure Islam implemented in Iran and not how Islam is interpreted in and by other countries". He claimed that without Iran, Islam would be lost and other Islamic countries feared Iran due to Iran having the only "truthful" version of Islam. His remarks shocked many in the audience.

Iran’s armed forces joint chief of staff, General Hassan Firouzabadi, said Mashaei's comments were a “crime against national security” and were divisive against the rest of the Muslim world. Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami
Ahmad Khatami
Ayatollah Seyyed Ahmad Khatami is a senior Iranian Ayatollah, as well as a senior member of the Assembly of Experts. In December of 2005, Ali Khamenei appointed him as Tehran’s substitute Friday prayer leader.He was born in the town of Nīr, Northern Iran...

 said that "equating the school of Iran and the school of Islam amounts to pagan nationalism, which the people of Iran have never accepted." Hardline cleric Ayatollah Mohammad-Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi, condemned Mashaei for having "once again made erroneous and inappropriate statements".

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who also spoke at the meeting, defended Mashaei by saying "the atmosphere of criticism is a necessity and nobody should be condemned for voicing his viewpoints and not every difference of opinion should lead to a fight... what Mashaei wanted to say was that Iran is a country with culture and civilization and accordingly chose Islam as its ideology." Despite the amount of protest and criticism, Mashaei has never retracted any of his statements.

He has been "associated" with the "deviant current", or "perverted group" (described by the Tehran Times as Iranians "obsessed with the imminent return of the Shiite messiah" and giving insufficient defference to Shia clerics; and by the Tehran Bureau as "Mashaei and his inner circle").
According to Karim Sadjadpour
Karim Sadjadpour
Karim Sadjadpour is a policy analyst at the Carnegie Endowment. Prior to that he was "chief Iran analyst" at the International Crisis Group. He has been a contributor to a number of TV, radio and newspaper opinion pages. He received a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Michigan, and an M.A...

, intelligence forces loyal to Supreme Leader
Supreme leader
A supreme leader typically refers to a figure in the highest leadership position of an entity, group, organization, or state, who exercises strong or all-powerful authority over it. In religion, the supreme leader or supreme leaders is God or Gods...

 Ali Khamenei
Ali Khamenei
Ayatollah Seyed Ali Hoseyni Khāmene’i is the Supreme Leader of Iran and the figurative head of the Muslim conservative establishment in Iran and Twelver Shi'a marja...

 using listening devices to listen in on “private” meetings of Mashaei and his supporters, have heard Mashaei talk of "designs to supplant the clergy". According to a report in the New York Review of Books, Mashaei is believed by his followers to be in contact with the "Imam of the Era" or the 12th Imam
Muhammad al-Mahdi
Muḥammad ibn al-Ḥasan al-Mahdī is believed by Twelver Shī‘a Muslims to be the Mahdī, an ultimate savior of humankind and the final Imām of the Twelve Imams...

, and this is the source of his dispute with Iran's clerics and reason for Ahmadinejad's refusal to part ways with him.

Promotion to First Vice President


On 17 July 2009, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced Mashaei would become the new First Vice President of Iran. Iran has twelve vice presidents, but the First Vice President is the most important, as he leads Cabinet meetings if the president is absent.

The announcement triggered criticism from conservatives, including the Basij
Basij
The Basij is a paramilitary volunteer militia established in 1979 by order of the Islamic Revolution's leader Ayatollah Khomeini. The force consists of young Iranians who have volunteered, often in exchange for official benefits...

 militia. Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami
Ahmad Khatami
Ayatollah Seyyed Ahmad Khatami is a senior Iranian Ayatollah, as well as a senior member of the Assembly of Experts. In December of 2005, Ali Khamenei appointed him as Tehran’s substitute Friday prayer leader.He was born in the town of Nīr, Northern Iran...

 said the “completely unbelievable” appointment “ridicule[d] the highest religious authorities”. The Kayhan
Kayhan
Kayhan is an influential newspaper in Iran. Directly under the supervision of the Office of the Supreme Leader, it is regarded to be "the most conservative Iranian newspaper."...

 newspaper said it was a “mistake” that would “no doubt provoke strong opposition”. The Union of Islamic Students stated "The news of your appointment by the legal president has plunged into deep surprise a large number of idealistic students who endured the widespread wave of defamation launched by opposition against Mr. Ahmadinejad and backed his candidacy ... While reaffirming our support for Mr. Ahmadinejad, the best choice for president, we believe that your immediate resignation from the post of first vice president would be the only way to serve fundamentalism ... You will be on the receiving end of the dire consequences of this appointment." Reformist lawmaker Dariush Ghanbari described the appointment as a "declaration of war" on parliament, because Ahmadinejad had earlier been asked to consult with the deputies before naming his Cabinet. Conservative Parliament speaker Ali Larijani
Ali Larijani
Ali Ardashir Larijani is an Iranian philosopher, politician and the chairman of the Iranian parliament. Larijani was the Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council from August 15, 2005 to October 20, 2007, appointed to the position by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad,replacing Hassan Rowhani...

 said he was "shocked" to hear of the appointment.

The Pupils Assn. News Agency, an offshoot of the official Islamic Republic News Agency
Islamic Republic News Agency
The Islamic Republic News Agency , or IRNA, is the official news agency of the Islamic Republic of Iran. It is government-funded and controlled under the Iranian Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance. The agency also publishes the newspaper Iran. , the Managing Director of IRNA is Ali Akbar...

, reported on 19 July 2009 that Mashaei had resigned the post, but the government-controlled Al-Alam News Network
Al-Alam News Network
Al-Alam is an Iranian Arabic satellite TV station.The network's political coverage tends to be the most popular; however, other subjects, such as commentaries, analysis, business and sports also get a share of the audience. Programs are broadcast for over 300 million Arabic-speaking people around...

 later contradicted that report.

Dismissal by Khamenei


On 18 July 2009, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei
Ali Khamenei
Ayatollah Seyed Ali Hoseyni Khāmene’i is the Supreme Leader of Iran and the figurative head of the Muslim conservative establishment in Iran and Twelver Shi'a marja...

 ordered Mashaei to resign from the cabinet. Second Deputy Speaker Mohammad Hassan Aboutorabi-Fard was
on 21 July quoted as saying "Eliminating Mashaei from key positions and the first deputy position is a strategic decision by the regime. The Supreme Leader’s opinion about the removal of Mr. Rahim Mashaei from the position of president’s first deputy has been submitted to the President in writing. Without any delay, the dismissal order or Mashaei’s resignation must be announced by the President."

However, Ahmadinejad’s senior assistant was quoted as saying "I have not seen a clear and convincing reason given by anyone to make [Mashaei's] appointment to the first deputy position impossible. Some say he has made mistakes in some of his statements. Well, everyone makes mistakes." He said "The decision to appoint Mashaei will not be revisited," although he later retracted that position.

Ministers including Intelligence Minister Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Eje'i and Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Mohammad-Hossein Saffar Harandi stormed out of a Cabinet meeting during an argument with Ahmedinejad over Mashaei's appointment.

On 22 July, Ahmedinejad spoke affirmatively at a farewell function for Mashaei as he resigned from his position as tourism vice president to take up his new post. "I like Rahim Mashaei for 1,000 reasons. One of the biggest honours of my life and one of the biggest favours from God to me is knowing Rahim Mashaei ... He is like a pure source of water. One of the reasons to like him is that when you sit with him and talk, there is no distance with him. He is like a transparent mirror. Unfortunately not many people know him."

By 24 July this position had become politically unsustainable. Mashaei resigned from the office of vice president, in compliance with the orders of Supreme Leader Khamenei.

Some analysts have said hard-liners opposed Mashaei because of his comments about Israel. Others suggest he is a member of a secretive sect, the Hojjatieh
Hojjatieh
Hojjatieh — also called Hojjatieh Society — is a semi-clandestine traditionalist Shia organization founded in Iran in 1953 by Shaikh Mahmoud Halabi with permission of Ayatollah Seyyed Hossein Borujerdi...

, which the Islamic Republic's founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, outlawed, and to which Ahmedinejad has also been linked. It is unclear whether there is any factual basis to these suggestions. Dubious rumors of unusual religious affiliations have been known to surface in Iran concerning people with whom the regime is disaffected.

It has been suggested that by demanding Mashaei's removal, Khamenei effectively appropriated a new power, since normally the Supreme Leader does not intervene openly to oust a government official. However, Article 131 of the Constitution provides that First Vice President takes over as acting President in cases where the President is incapacitated only if permitted by the Supreme Leader.

Appointment as chief of staff


Following Mashaei's resignation, Ahmedinejad appointed him as his chief of staff and head of presidential center, abruptly dismissed from the cabinet Intelligence Minister Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Eje'i who had opposed the vice-presidential appointment, and threatened to dismiss Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Mohammad-Hossein Saffar Harandi. Harandi resigned before he could be dismissed.
Mashaei was dismissed as Head of Presidential Center less than two years later in April 2011, but retained his "other posts". He was replaced by Hamid Baqai
Hamid Baqai
Hamid Baqai is an Iranian politician who was Head of Presidential Center since 9 April 2011. He has been described as a pragmatic, moderate Conservative with "liberal views on cultural and social issues" Before his appointment in office, He was Head of Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization...

, another Ahmadinejad "ally".

2013 Iranian presidential election


Ahmadinejad is constitutionally prohibited from seeking a third consecutive term, so he cannot participate in the 2013 Presidential Election
Iranian presidential election, 2013
The eleventh election of the President of Iran is scheduled to be held in June 2013 to elect the successor of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.- Last Election :...

. A "confidential US diplomatic cable" revealed by WikiLeaks in 2011 reported that Mashaei was "being groomed as a possible successor" to president Ahmedinejad.

Quotes

  • "No nation in the world is our enemy, Iran is a friend of the nation in the United States and in Israel, and this is an honor. We view the American nation as one with the greatest nations of the world."
  • "Today, Iran is friends with the American and Israeli people. No nation in the world is our enemy."
    • "The position that I have always taken is that Palestinians must continue to fight for their rights and the return of their land."
      • "There are different interpretations of Islam, but our understanding of the real nature of Iran and of Islam is the Iranian school. From now on, we must present to the world the school of Iran."
      • "Without Iran, Islam would be lost... if we want to present the truth of Islam to the world, we should erect the Iranian flag...the Islam of the Iranians is different and enlightening, and will shape the future."
      • "The era of Islamism has come to an end. We had an Islamic revolution in 1979. But the era of Islamism is finished."

      External links