Iran Forces' Chief of Staff Criticizes Ahmadinejad Aide Over Islam Remarks

Iran’s armed forces joint chief of staff, General Hassan Firouzabadi, said comments by a top aide to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that suggested Iran was superior among the world’s Muslim countries were a “crime against national security.”

Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaei said yesterday that “without Iran, Islam would be lost,” and that if “we want to present the truth of Islam to the world, we should erect the Iranian flag,” the state-run Mehr news agency reported. “Countries are scared of Iran, because the truth of Islam is here,” the aide said.

“Talking of an Iranian school of thought is divisive for the Muslim world,” Firouzabadi, who was appointed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was cited as saying today by the state-run Fars news agency in response to Rahim-Mashaei’s remarks. “It means that we are different from the Islamic countries, the Arab countries.”

Iran, ruled since 1979 by Muslim clerics, is vying for influence in the Middle East with Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter. Saudi Arabia’s government endorses the Wahabi interpretation of Sunni Islam and Iran follows Shiite teachings.

While both countries require women to cover their hair and obscure their body shape for modesty, the Saudi kingdom’s interpretation of Islamic law forbids an encounter between an unrelated man and woman, requires a woman to get a male relative’s permission to work and bans women from driving.

Rahim-Mashaei criticized a country that he described as the “ringleader of the Muslim world” over its treatment of women, without identifying it, saying it’s a place where they can’t get a driving license and don’t share equal rights with men.

The aide was Ahmadinejad’s choice for vice president after his disputed re-election in June 2009, though the nomination was overturned by Khamenei. Rahim-Mashaei has been criticized for his views on a number of occasions, including in 2008, when he described Iran as a friend of the Israeli people.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ali Sheikholeslami in London at alis2@bloomberg.net.

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