Ahmadinejad Departure in Iran Means Moving Desk Down Hall

Iran’s outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ordered the creation of an agency in the presidential office in an effort to retain a presence even after his successor, Hassan Rohani, takes over.

The new “Former President’s Office” was outlined in a June 22 directive from Gholam-Hossein Elham, Ahmadinejad’s deputy for human resources in the presidency, Tehran-based newspapers Shargh and Donya-e-Eqtesad said.

The office will be staffed by 25 people, consisting of a director, experts and others in charge of coordination and communication, Donya said. They will plan meetings with officials at home and abroad and with legislative and judicial bodies, it said. The office’s activities may overlap with the new president’s work, Shargh said.

“Iran is a country of second chances,” said Suzanne Maloney, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy in Washington in a telephone interview. “It’d be out of character for Ahmadinejad to fade quietly into the woodwork.”

The reports were acknowledged by an official from the presidential office, though he remained vague on the plan.

“In line with the law, the president and his vice president can have personal offices once their term ends,” Hamid Baghaei, the president’s deputy for executive affairs, told reporters today in Tehran, according to the state-run Reporters’ Club.

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“It doesn’t matter where the president will be stationed,” Baghaei said. “It is planned for the president, based on the request he’ll make, to have an office at his disposal so as to carry out his work and resolve issues.”

At the end of his cabinet meeting today, Ahmadinejad answered a reporter’s question on whether he would stay in the presidential office by saying, “I am in the midst of moving back to my previous home” in northeastern Tehran, state-run Fars reported.

Ahmadinejad has fallen out of favor with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country’s highest authority. Ahmadinejad’s second term, which started in 2009, was fraught with quarrels involving top officials, and a widening circle of critics accused him of careless economic management and reckless rhetoric. During his eight-year presidency, he stoked tensions with the West over Iran’s nuclear program. The United Nations, U.S. and European Union subsequently imposed sanctions.

Former Presidents

Previous ex-presidents have stayed active politically. Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who was president for two terms from 1989 to 1997, heads the Expediency Council, a political consultative body to resolve disputes between parliament and the 12-man Guardian Council. Rafsanjani, was a presidential candidate in 2005 and 2013.

Mohammad Khatami, president between 1997 to 2005, contemplated running in the 2009 Iranian presidential election before giving his support to the reformist candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi who remains under house arrest. He supported Rohani in 2013 elections.

“Ahmadinejad has some popular support within the country and I’m skeptical that he is a spent force,” Maloney said. “I would not write him off.”

Days ahead of the Aug. 3 inauguration of Rohani, Ahmadinejad has indicated he has plans beyond a smooth handover to the next government, Shargh said.

“Ahmadinejad’s character shows that he isn’t someone who will easily step away from power,” today’s Shargh report quoted Ahmad Khorshidi-Azad, the father of Ahmadinejad’s son-in-law, as having said. “He will do all he can to maintain power.”

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