Is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a closet Persian nationalist trying to de-Islamize Iran? Is he part of a plot to send the mullahs back to the mosques to make way for an Islamist military regime?Isn't it reassuring to know that the people who are most likely to topple Ahmadinejad are even more fundamentalist?
These are some of the questions raised in the Majlis, Iran's ersatz parliament, by members who are trying to impeach the president. As astonishing as this might be for Western observers, Ahmadinejad is challenged by people who claim that he is not Muslim enough and that he harbors a hidden anti-clerical agenda to promote a mixture of messianism and chauvinism. His closest friend and aide, Esfandiar Rahim Masha'i, has even suggested that "within one year Ahmadinejad's enemies would declare him to be an infidel."
The charge that Ahmadinejad is trying to push the mullahs out of power is based on his own claim that he has a direct line of communication with the Hidden Imam, a Messiah-like figure in Shiite Islam who is supposed to emerge at the end of time to install eternal justice.
Ahmadinejad constantly talks of the Hidden Imam but almost never mentions Ruhollah Khomeini, the mullah who created the present regime. Nor is Ahmadinejad keen to pay tribute to Khamenei. A man who talks to God wouldn't bother with mere saints.
Several times a year, Ahmadinejad takes his entire cabinet to Jamkaran, a suburb of the "holy" city of Qom south of Tehran, to report to the Hidden Imam. In Jamkaran there is a well that is supposed to lead to the place where the Hidden Imam is in hiding. In a solemn ceremony, Ahmadinejad throws copies of his government's budget and other edicts into the well for consideration by the Hidden Imam.
The message is clear: A government that is preparing for the end of times, under the command of the Hidden Imam, does not need the mullahs.
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