Led by Supreme Leader, Iranian Hardliners, Including Holocaust-Denier Ahmadinejad, Consolidate Political Control
Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, announced on Monday a new head of the regime’s influential Expediency Council, consolidating the influence of conservative hardliners.
The new head of the council — which advises the supreme leader and mediates between the Iranian parliament and the much more powerful Guardians Council — is Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, the former head of the judiciary who has been widely touted as a potential successor to the 78-year-old Khamenei. A fervent critic of the Saudi government, Shahroudi has in the past condemned the “Saudis crimes in Yemen” as being “greater than the Israeli crimes against humanity in Gaza.”
Also included in the 44-member council — composed entirely of men — is the former Iranian president, notorious Holocaust denier Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The appointment of Ahmadinejad flies in the face of predictions that his political career was over after he was barred from standing in the Iranian presidential election earlier this year.
Other appointments to the council include hardline cleric Ebrahim Raisi and outgoing Tehran mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, both of whom were defeated by current President Hassan Rouhani — often portrayed as a “moderate” by Western media outlets and politicians – in the May election.
Sharoudi’s appointment to lead the Expediency Council comes eight months after the death of its former head, Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. One of Rafsanjani’s signal achievements during his tenure as president in the early 1990s was the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in which 85 people were killed and hundreds more were wounded — the operation was planned at a meeting at Rafsanjani’s house in the city of Mashhad with terrorists from the Lebanese Hezbollah organization.
The Expediency Council’s new line-up was announced hours before President Rouhani threatened that Iran would quit the nuclear deal agreed in 2015 with six world powers “within hours” if the US administration imposes further sanctions on Tehran. Rouhani derided the US as an “unreliable partner,” citing President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord and the possibility of new sanctions against Cuba as examples.