Source: ISNA , Date: 14 September 2011
In a provincial tour of Ardabil province in the city of Khalkhal on 14 September 2011, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad commented for the first time on accusations of financial corruption and fraud levelled against individuals rumoured to be close to his chief of staff Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei.
According to the New York Times and other sources, Iranian regulators have frozen the assets of Amir-Mansour Aria, a financier, who is accused of attempting to defraud the Iranian government of
$2.6 billion to purchase privatized state assets. Aria has been linked to the ‘perverted current’ (also referred to as the ‘deviant current’), the regime’s terminology for Mashaei and his circle.
Mashaei has raised considerable controversy in Iran for breaking regime taboos through his nationalist discourse, criticism of the clergy, and positive comments toward the people of Israel.
In making his defense of Mashaei, Ahmadinejad took the opportunity to emphasize that his administration stands for social and economic justice, but has been blocked by special interests in the elite:
“Our country is a rich country and has many resources which all belong to the people. If resources and opportunities are equally distributed, all talents will bloom…If justice is implemented in the country, our journey toward perfection shall gain speed, but implementing justice is difficult, and when we want to cut the hands which are entangled in the public treasury, they plot so that the real culprit appears innocent.”
The president then contended that the accusations against Mashaei were conjured as a smokescreen for the real culprits of the alleged fraud, who walk free:
“In the last six years we have struggled to achieve justice… but we see that they accuse government figures so that they can stop government activities. Individuals who were supported from here and there, sought to found a bank in the recent affair and wanted to circumvent the banking system. The head of the Central Bank attempted to identify, control, and freeze these individual’s assets, but there is a group that backs these individuals. We wanted to freeze their assets and were supposed to identify and confront them, but an individual came out of the woodwork and spread news. But evil figures and pens [writers] accused the government’s pure officials in order to allow the real culprits and thieves to abscond… The government had previously declared that it wanted to cleanse the banking system and in this field proposed a plan that no one should receive a loan without being qualified and meeting banking rules first.”
He concluded by saying that:
“As long as I am alive and can make decisions on your behalf, I shall stand before injustices and shall not back down from defending the nation’s right, I would not trade resolving the problems of a single youth for all of the admiration of those with full-stomachs and no suffering [referring to the rich and powerful].”
Editor’s note: Since 2010 Mashaei, considered the president’s closest confidant, has come under heavy attack from other Principalists including former members of Ahmadinejad’s Cabinet who view Mashaei as having undue influence over the president. The president’s chief of staff is viewed as a pariah by many in Iran’s political establishment for crossing ‘red-lines’ including advocating an “Iranian school of Islam”, questioning the role of the clergy in politics, and advocating liberalization of foreign relations with the West.
Interestingly, despite the pressure from many corners, Ahmadinejad has continued to unflinchingly back Mashaei as shown by this most recent episode. Why this is, and what plans Ahmadinejad and Mashaei have for Iran’s political future, remains to be seen.