A growing rift between Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has bubbled to the surface recently, fueling speculation that the president will resign.
The schism began months ago, but came to a head in recent weeks when Ahmadinejad dismissed Intelligence Minister Heidar Moslehi. Khamenei, who has final authority on all political decisions, immediately re-instated the minister in a move widely perceived as a rebuke to the president.
In retaliation, Ahmadinejad skipped two Cabinet meetings, but by Sunday, May 1, he signaled he was stepping down from the fight. According to the AP, he ended "his apparent boycott of Cabinet meetings and accusing the U.S. and Israel of exaggerating internal rifts."
However, the bitter power struggle continues. On Thursday, the battle took a strange turn as allies of Ahmadinejad found themselves slapped with charges of sorcery. As the Guardian reports, several people, including the president's chief of staff, were charged with being "magicians." Abbas Ghaffari, one of the men arrested, was described as "a man with special skills in metaphysics and connections with the unknown worlds" by an Iranian news website.
Friday, the tension seemed to come to come to a breaking point, with reports that Ahmadinejad had received a deadline to either accept the reinstatement of the intelligence minister or submit his resignation. The Guardian reports:
Meanwhile, the president was reportedly absent from religious ceremonies this week at Khamenei's house, where he was publicly criticised by close allies of the ayatollah. Iranian officials are traditionally required to participate in such ceremonies in order to cover up any political rift that might compromise Khamenei's power.
While it remains to be seen which option the controversial leader will choose, the public nature of the disagreement is a rare occurrence in Iranian politics, in which political infighting is carefully concealed from the public.