Sunday, October 30, 2005

The Shadow in Ahmadinejad’s Office

Behnam Majidzadeh, Rooz Online:
Members of Ahmadinejad's cabinet and aides to the president have been facing a completely new phenomenon in their interactions with the president, which has absolutely no precedence in the presidency. The president has a permanent resident in his office, called “senior advisor” who wields extreme influence in everything that goes on in the country.

His name? Read on.

The “advisor” has been around the president since day one of his election and has unofficially been omnipresent with the president. When Ahmadinejad appointed his cabinet, his name was there, but there were no specific qualifications attributed to him.

According to reporters by those close to the president, there is no presidential meeting or discussion where the “advisor” is not present. Not even private meetings. His name: Mojtaba Somreh Hashemi.

This shadowy presence has displeased some cabinet members who have complained about it. On some occasions when Somreh was not around, the president would call him to start a meeting, according to insiders. According to Ahmadinejad’s colleagues at the Municipality when he was the Mayor of Tehran, Somreh Hashemi played exactly the same role there too.

Somreh is a close friend of Mesbah Yazdi, the ultra conservative cleric from Qom, which makes some believe that he represents the clergyman in overseeing Ahmadinejad’s activities. READ MORE

Others contend that the relationship between the president and his special advisor are of that of mentor and student, thus fueling the notion that this is the presence of the hidden 12th Imam! It is also reported that during the 8-year Iran-Iraq war, the advisor was in fact Ahmadinejad’s military commander.

During the elections and the presidential transition period, Somreh had regularly acted as Ahmadinejad’s confidant, and even spokesman. On one occasion he is reported to have warned a deputy Foreign Minister not to make any new appoints, including ambassadorships, until a new Foreign Minister was in place. He was also on the entourage of the president’s trip to New York, where the famous defiant speech was made at the UN General Assembly. Observers noted his “advisory” role during that trip.

The displeasure with this presence has not remained confined to the cabinet. Other senior members in the conservative and hardline political circles say that they have to deal with two individuals in their visits and talks with the president. Such complaints increased when it was noted that Ahmadinejad liked to micro-manage the government Ministries. Both the president and Somreh jointly and individually intervened in every appointment in the ministries, as if to make up for the losses their suffered in making their cabinet appointments. It was not long ago that Ahmadinejad appeared stunned when four of his cabinet appointees were rejected by the Majlis (Parliament).

In another related issue, cabinet ministers have privately complained about the attitude of the president towards them and his responses when views different from his are presented. They state that he addresses them humiliatingly and with disrespect, both in cabinet sessions and in private. This contrasts, they say, with his behavior towards Somreh. Those close to presidential affairs and activities of the cabinet have even related stories on this issue that have stunned the listener. Perhaps time will throw more light on the shadowy presence in the presidential palace and in his world.