The resignation comes a day after the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation Gholamreza Aghazadeh also resigned. No official reason was given for Aghazadeh's resignation but he has been a close ally of pro-reform Mir-Hossein Mousavi.
Also on Sunday Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei appointed Hojatoleslam Mohammad Ali Al-e Hashem, as the new head of the army’s political ideology section.
This game of musical chairs is a sign that the power struggle inside Iran’s top leadership is not letting up, with the real holders of power, the ayatollahs, in the thick of things, a far cry from Ahmadinejad’s claim that his new cabinet would be “ten times” more powerful than the previous one.
Mashaie’s resignation is highly significant. A former head of the Cultural Heritage Organisation of Iran, he is the father-in-law of one of Ahmadinejad’s sons. But the close personal relationship between the two men (pictured) is not the cause of hardliners’ wrath.
Staunch conservatives close to Supreme Leader Khamenei objected to his appointment because last year Mashaie said that the Iranian people is close to all peoples, including the Israeli people, a statement that Khamenei himself condemned. As soon as his appointment was made official the attacks began.
“It is imperative to terminate the appointment of Mashaie as first vice president in order to respect the wishes of the majority of the people,” said Hossein Shariatmadari, the editor of arch-conservative newspaper Kayhan, himself an appointee of the supreme leader, who went on to say that Ahmadinejad should "reconsider his decision as for him the view of the people is very important.”.
Reza Akrami, a leading member of the Association of Militant Clergy, also did not wait long before expressing his disapproval. “In the past four years I did not see wise behaviour from him,” the semi-official Fars news agency quoted him as saying.
The Islamic Society of Students Union on Saturday issued a letter to Rahim-Mashaei calling for his resignation, Press TV reported.
And in another statement, Hojatoleslam Hamid Rasaei, a conservative lawmaker, said that “it would have been much better if this appointment had not been made.”
Hojjatoleslam Seyyed Mohammad Gharavi, a senior member of Jame-e Mmodarresin-e Qom (the Qom Seminary Teachers Association), also criticised Ahmadinejad for his decision, calling it “inappropriate.”
On Friday Former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjan criticised Ahmadinejad’s election during Friday prayers, which he led.
A top insider in Iran’s Shia clerical elite, Rafsanjan is seen as a pragmatist and a moderate reformer, like defeated “pro-reform” candidate Mousavi who has challenged the election results by encouraging street protest.
Lately the regime got a bit of a black eye when an anonymous prison guard was quoted in the Jerusalem Post as saying that in order to overcome the ban on death penalties for female virgins, women sentenced to death are “married” off to a prison guard the day before their execution and then raped. (PD)