Posts Tagged ‘Ghalibaf’
By: Meir Javedanfar
Sometimes news takes time to get out of Iran — particularly when it comes to internal strife in the upper political echelons. But eventually, major clashes leak out. This week the news emerged that Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, the mayor of Tehran and Ahmadinejad’s main rival in the Osulgarayn (Principalist) movement, resigned from his post just before the end of the previous Persian calendar year — approximately March 18 or 19.
A number of days later, he was reinstated to his job after his resignation was rejected by senior officials, most likely the supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei.
The news was first published in the Tehran-based Jahan News, which is affiliated with Iran’s Ministry of Information and Security, known by its Farsi acronym as VAVAK.
According to the report, the main reason for Ghalibaf’s resignation was the termination of supply of cement, primary materials, and tools required by the Tehran municipality for its subway project for the city of Tehran. This follows another controversial decision by the government to cut subsidized gasoline provided to the municipality’s cars. This decision forced the organization to purchase gas at market prices — six or seven times the price. These decisions first caused a number of senior municipality managers to resign, followed by the mayor himself.
The very fact that he took a step as extreme as resigning from his post is an indication of the intensity of the rivalry between him and Ahmadinejad. As mayor of Tehran, Ghalibaf depends on the national government, and Ministry of Interior in particular, to supply him with material and subsidized goods for city projects. He can’t just simply go out and buy them himself.
According to government regulations, the Ministry of Interior must approve every purchase and, in many cases, supply the goods as well as the funds. As president, Ahmadinejad wields power over the Ministry of Interior and other ministries that deal with Tehran Municipality. With such power, he can make life as easy and as difficult for Ghalibaf as he chooses.
Since 2005, Ahmadinejad has decided to do the latter.
Numerous projects have been delayed. A notable one was the supply of buses to the municipality for its Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) scheme, which Ghalibaf has been championing as a solution to Tehran’s traffic problems since late 2005. This notwithstanding the $600 million of approved funds, which the government refused to release to the municipality. Recently, Ghalibaf hit back, removing posters celebrating the 100th anniversary of the country’s oil industry, which showed Ahmadinejad standing in front of a refinery.
Ahmadinejad’s perception of Ghalibaf as a threat is quite accurate. There are many within the Iranian conservative movement who are concerned about the damage Ahmadinejad and his disastrous economic policies have caused their movement. They see Ghalibaf and his support for more moderate foreign and economic policies as hope for redemption.
There is also Ghalibaf’s military record as well, far more distinguished than that of Ahmadinejad. Ghalibaf was a senior commander in the Revolutionary Guards, and unlike Ahmadinejad, he has lost family (his brother) in war.
The resignation of Khatami also seems to have boosted Ghalibaf’s position. Some of Khatami’s supporters now back Mousavi (Khatami’s replacement). According to Shafaf News from Tehran, more than half of Khatami’s supporters now back Ghalibaf. One of the main reasons is thought to be because they see Ghalibaf as a good prospect, due to his good relations with the Revolutionary Guards and Khamenei himself.
Judging by Khatami’s resignation and Ghalibaf’s temporary resignation, the level of discord within the Iranian government is reaching a new level, and Ayatollah Khamenei knows this. This is why Khatami was most probably advised not to run: because the animosity which he creates between the conservatives would have created more division and infighting.
Ghalibaf’s resignation would have been another embarrassing blow, as he could have become the second senior official (after Larijani) to resign because of Ahmadinejad — hence the successful pressure on him to reverse his decision.
These developments show that President Obama’s policy of refusing to negotiate with Iran until after the presidential elections is on target. Once the elections are over and the dust settles, Washington will be in a much better position to deal with Tehran. Waiting until then will not be an easy decision, especially economically. According to a recent study by the CATO Institute, oil prices are set to rise again, which could force Americans to pay $3 or $4 for their gasoline at the pump.
This will provide Iran’s political hierarchy with more leverage at the negotiations.
However, negotiating before the elections could bolster Ahmadinejad and weaken the people of Iran, as well as politicians such as Ghalibaf who oppose the president. This must be avoided.
Hopefully, the political divisions and the internal enemies Ahmadinejad has created may do a much better job of bringing him down than the U.S. or Israel ever could.
This article originally appeared in PJM Media
By: Meir Javedanfar
The period leading to the Iranian presidential elections is always exciting, and this time it will be no different.
According to a recent article in the Tehran based Baztab online, members of a parallel intelligence agency inside Iran have been arrested after being caught spying on Tehran Mayor and presidential candidate Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf. The arrested group was collecting information about Ghalibaf’s meetings and electioneering gatherings.
In an interesting twist to the story, the head of the counter intelligence agency that caught the group was later removed because he supplied the information to the press.
The report does not mention who were the people spying on Ghalibaf. However one can assume that the person who has the most to lose from Ghalibaf’s participation in the elections is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He may feel safe about Ayatollah Khatami’s participation, because he could assume that Ayatollah Khamenei, who is not usually in favor of reformists, may not allow him to win.
However Ghalibaf who is from within the conservative movement may pose a bigger danger. Unlike Ahmadinejad, he was a senior commander in the Revolutionary Guards, and fought in the war for the entire eight years. This is in contrast to Ahmadinejad’s one and half years on the front lines. Also, Ghalibaf is the brother of a Shaheed (martyr), whereas Ahmadinejad did not lose any close family in the war. These factors reinforce Ghalibaf’s revolutionary credentials and give him an edge over the president.
Furthermore, Ghalibaf is seen as more moderating force in terms of economic and foreign policy. He has openly spoken out against excessive spending and populist policies of the current government, while calling for a more moderate foreign policy and investment from abroad. This is music to the ears of many conservative supporters, and those who want to support Khatami, but believe that despite his good intentions, Khamenei will never let him win.
There are two other factors which boost Ghalibaf’s chances.
One is Ali Larijani’s decision not to participate. His participation may have led to cannibalization of votes between the two.
The other is election of Barack Obama. His calls for unconditional dialogue have been heard in Tehran. So have recommendations for him not to meet with Ahmadinejad.
It is very possible that the Supreme Leader may decide that Ahmadinejad’s catastrophic economic performance and his foreign policy stance may have cost Iran too much. That his removal may be worth the price for the sake of internal stability, and the chance to reap the benefits of dialogue with the US.
Between all the candidates, Ghalibaf would be the best face saving choice. His election as a conservative candidate would allow Khamenei to choose a middle course which would satisfy conservatives at home and those wanting to approach a more moderate Iran.
By: Meir Javedanfar
Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf who has been serving as the Mayor of Tehran since 2005, is getting ready to enter the 2009 Iranian presidential race.
He already tried his luck in 2005 as a candidate, but failed to win. Winning 14% of the votes, he came in 5th. One of the reasons is because he described himself as an Islamic version of Reza Shah. Some Iranians have nostalgic feelings for the founder for the Pahlavi dynasty, and the father of Shah. The biggest reason is because he was a nationalist, and that he was a developer. He developed Iran’s roads, railways and telecommunication system. Also he was a no none sense man. He didn’t let bureaucracy (or democracy for that matter) get in his plans to develop Iran and to try and make it in to a modern country. In short, Iranians like Reza Shah, because he was a man of talk and action. In comparison, Ahmadinejad is a man of talk and no action. Or if he does anything, like reform the economy, he makes it worst.
However comparing yourself to the father of the Shah, even an Islamic version would make any politician lose great many point with supreme leader Khamenei. And this is what happened with Ghalibaf. Even though he had much better credentials as a Revolutionary Guards commander, Khamenei picked Ahmadinejad over him.
That was in 2005. Since then, Ghalibaf has improved his popularity as the Mayor of Tehran. He has just been recognized as the 8th best Mayor in the world. This is an achievement which won him much publicity in Iran. During his trip to Japan to receive the recognition, he used the opportunity to attack Ahmadinejad. Amongst other things he criticized Ahmadinejad’s domestic policies, with emphasis placed on the problem of inflation and Iran’s excessive reliance on oil as a source of income. He also criticized Ahmadinejad’s cash handouts, saying that they don’t “solve the economic roots of our problems”.
This is only a warning shot. President Ahmadinejad should expect a very tough and bruising competition . There is a queue of politicians waiting to settle scores with him. Ghalibaf should get to the back of the line. Ayatollah Karrubi got there first. There will be more people joining them.