A three-story building in a quiet one-way alley in northern Tehran is the headquarters of an unlikely campaign that opposes both the administration of President Hassan Rouhani and many of the Islamic Republic’s establishment figures.
The Velenjak building is the base of activities for former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has his offices on its third floor.
Ahmadinejad has been relatively quiet since the ascendance of the moderate Rouhani, but the Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA) is only one of many outlets that have reported on his desire to make a comeback.
According to Amir Mohebbian, a leading political analyst, Ahmadinejad’s attempt to return to power is obvious as he “quietly awaits favorable conditions and occasionally tests the waters.”
The provincial trips that the former hard-line president makes are one indication.
In addition to making many trips to southern and northern Iran, Ahmadinejad celebrated the end of Ramadan by visiting Taleqan with the family members of four celebrated Iran-Iraq war “martyrs” in a trip that, according to ILNA, was coordinated by the Quds Force, the formidable international arm of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.
In April, Ahmadinejad ruled out a return to politics but many of his supporters beg to differ.
They are tirelessly organizing and insist on his return. These are an unlikely bunch. Their young cadre runs many blogs and social media accounts. They draw controversy by their occasionally unconventional mixing of Islamism with an anti-wealthy and anti-establishment discourse, and many have spent time in jail for their activities. Their targets are not only the Reformists but many of the traditional conservatives.
Take Ahmad Shariat, who heads the Internet committee of an Ahmadinejad organization. In his blog, he attacked the policy of backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, called for a boycott of the last Majles elections in 2012 (because many Ahmadinejad forces were barred), attacked establishment religious figures such as Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi and, finally, dared to criticize Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei himself (the latter, in early 2013, led to the closing of Shariat’s blog and his arrest).
These supporters leave no doubt as to their allegiance to the ex-president. One name they go by is “Homa,” a Persian acronym for “Supporters of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.” An online newspaper with the same name (Homa Daily) opened last week on the occasion of Ahmadinejad’s 58th birthday. (“Square 72” is another outlet, named after Ahmadinejad’s neighborhood in northeastern Tehran).
Abdolreza Davari — who was a vice-president of IRNA, the national news agency for the administration under Ahmadinejad — is a leading organizer of Homa. A controversial figure who was fired from a teaching post for “political activities,” Davari was reported by ILNA as one of the top three media campaigners attempting an Ahmadinejad comeback.
“As an Iranian, I hope for the return of Mr. Ahmadinejad to politics,” Davari told Al-Monitor, before adding that he thinks the ex-president is currently focused on “scientific” activities.
To my question about the regular meetings of Homa in the Velenjak building, Davari says that such meetings are not organized but that “all kinds of people, commentators, students or ordinary people come to meet and talk to Dr. Ahmadinejad.”
Davari also denies that Homa is attempting to organize for next year’s Majles elections. Ahmadinejad’s return to power needs no less than “changes in the current relation of forces,” Davari says, seeming to imply that many of the establishment figures wouldn’t want the ex-president back. Many such figures are especially opposed to Ahmadinejad’s entourage.
Enter Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, Ahmadinejad’s chief of staff, who was openly rebuked by Khamenei for his maverick mixing of Shiite millennialism, Persian nationalism and leftist language. Despite Khamenei’s personal rejection and the sustained attacks of many who accused Mashaei of leading a “deviationist current,” the ex-president has continued backing his close friend (whose daughter married Ahmadinejad’s eldest son) even after the Guardian Council rejected Mashaei’s candidacy in last year’s presidential elections.
2 thoughts on “Is Ahmadinejad Making a Comeback?”
“As an Iranian, I hope for the return of Mr. Ahmadinejad to politics,” Davari told Al-Monitor, before adding that he thinks the ex-president is currently focused on “scientific” activities.”
Hope so too. I like him better than any president we’ve had since JFK. He REALLY hates the Zionist jew maggots, and isn’t afraid to say so.
Of course, neither was Chavez, and we see how that went.