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Iran Analysis: The Resurrection of Ahmadinejad's Right-Hand Man?

In the first part of President Ahmadinejad's second term, after protests over the disputed 2009 election had been suppressed, Chief of Staff Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai was a headline figure. The expectation that Ahmadinejad would name Rahim-Mashai as his desired successor guaranteed both support and criticism of the controversial aide.

As Ahmadinejad became engulfed in his own political problems after his failed attempt to extend power in spring 2011, Rahim-Mashai receded from view. Opponents pressed him with allegations that he was a supporter of the US and Israel --- even that he was Jewish --- as well as claims of corruption and financial mismanagement. The Chief of Staff, once vocal, maintained a cautious silence.

However, on Thursday, there was an apparent resurrection. Asr Iran claimed that Rahim Mashai told a meeting that he would run for President next spring: "No one can stop me!" He supposedly continued: "Offense is the best defense... We are intending to constantly be on the attack and we will not be gentlemanly towards anyone."

The Chief of Staff targeted specific foes, "We have been active for the past seven years. We will not so easily hand over the eleventh Cabinet [Government] to [Tehran Mayor Mohammad-Baqer] Qalibaf." Answering criticism of his activity inside and outside office, Rahim Mashai said, The gentlemen have no documentation whatsoever when it comes to a fantastical movement called 'the devaiant current'." And like the President, he made threats of documents that could be used against those criticsL "We have things [prepared files on] all those people who have attacked the cabinet during the past seven years."

Rahim Mashai concluded, "Just as Ahmadinejad has declared it, I too have prepared myself for martyrdom."

The language of Asr Iran's report suggests that it may be more exaggeration to discredit Rahim Mashai, rather than an accurate representation of his remarks, and the Chief of Staff's office has put out a denial.

Still, even if the report is more propaganda than truth, the timing is notable. It follows claims this week that a pro-Ahmadinejad television network, based in Tajikistan and presumably promoting Rahim Mashai as well as the President, had failed to establish itself.

Six months before the 2013 Presidential election, this may not be the resurrection of Rahim Mashai. However, his opponents are not convinced that the Chief of Staff is politically dead and buried.

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