NewsSpecial WireHardliners to dominate Iran’s new cabinet - sources

Hardliners to dominate Iran’s new cabinet – sources

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Iran Focus: Tehran, Iran, Jun. 29 – With Iran’s new President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad set to take office on August 4, knowledgeable sources expect major reshuffles in the government. All eyes are now on candidates chosen for the major portfolios. Sources close to the conservative camp tell Iran Focus that a number of hard-line Majlis deputies are to be given high-profile ministerial posts.

Iran Focus

Tehran, Iran, Jun. 29 – With Iran’s new President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad set to take office on August 4, knowledgeable sources expect major reshuffles in the government.

All eyes are now on candidates chosen for the major portfolios. Sources close to the conservative camp tell Iran Focus that a number of hard-line Majlis deputies are to be given high-profile ministerial posts.

“People like Elias Naderan, Hassan Sobhani, and Ahmad Tavakkoli are among those who have been promised cabinet posts in the ministries of trade, economy, and management”, said a source, who requested anonymity, a usual practice for Iranian officials making unauthorised comments.

Some analysts warned against reading too much about the composition of ministers, as the Iranian theocracy’s power structure is such that the cabinet would not be the major power centre.

“In the Islamic Republic, ministers have a purely executive function”, Amir-Houshang Behbahani, an economic analyst and former central bank executive, said. “This will be even more so in Ahmadinejad’s cabinet. The real power will be in the Supreme Leader’s office and in several other bodies, such as the Motalefeh and the Revolutionary Guards high command. They are the ones who will be pulling the strings”.

Others underline the newly-found prominence of radical Islamic fundamentalist clerics and shadowy groups, such as Ansar-e Hezbollah. Ahmadinejad was one of the founders of Ansar-e Hezbollah, a group of Islamic vigilantes who regularly attack university students, intellectuals, dissidents and other “subversive elements”.

Ansar leader and Ahmadinejad ally Masoud Dehnamaki announced yesterday that the shadowy group’s journal, Jebheh, will resume regular publication soon.

“Watch for the power that will be given to men who brought Ahmadinejad to power”, said Taher Niakani, a Shiraz University lecturer. “Men like [Guardian Council chairman”> Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati and [theologian”> Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi will be having serious input in policy-making”.

Motalefeh is short for Jamiat’haye Motalefeh Islami, or Unified Islamic Associations. It came into existence in the 1960s as a clandestine radical Islamic fundamentalist group supporting Ayatollah Khomeini. Its members played a key role in the assassination of the Shah’s Prime Minister Ali Mansour. Its leaders, who hailed from Tehran’s Bazaar, became multi-billionaire entrepreneurs after the Islamic Revolution, oppose foreign investment and integration of Iran in the global economy.

Tavakkoli, a deputy from Tehran, is an ultra-conservative member of parliament who was ex-President Hashemi Rafsanjani’s rival in the 1993 presidential elections. He has been the ultra-conservative camp’s chief economic critic of President Mohammad Khatami’s government.

Naderan, also a deputy from Tehran, is a member of the Majlis Energy Committee. He and Sobhani, a deputy from Damqan (central Iran) who is Chair of the Combined Majlis Committee, were active members of Tavakkoli’s presidential campaign team.

The chief economic officials in the new government, who are expected to include former Minister of Economy Tahmasb Mazaheri and Majlis Deputy Mohammad Khoshchehreh, are hawkishly opposed to opening up Iran’s economy to the outside world. They are all protégés of the powerful Motalefeh group.

Another source with access to Ahmadinejad’s senior aides said that Amir-Reza Khadam, a Majlis deputy from Tehran who headed the Youth Committee and was a member the Cultural Committee, was expected to be appointed as one of Ahmadinejad’s several vice-presidents and run the tourism and cultural heritage office.

The name of another ultra-conservative, Mohammad Ahmadian, has been touted for the post of Minister of Energy.

Hossein Mozaffar, a former Minister of Education and commander of the paramilitary Bassij, and Emad Afrooq, chairman of the conservative-dominated Cultural Committee of the Majlis and a former Revolutionary Guards commander, are also hinted to receive key posts in Ahmadinejad’s cabinet. Both men have radical Islamic fundamentalist views on cultural and educational issues.

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