Farhang Jahanpour writes in a guest column for Informed Comment:
The root of the current problem between Khamenei and Ahmadinejad lies in a struggle for power between the two. The open disagreement started over Ahmadinejad’s appointment of his close friend and his son’s father-in-law Esfandiar Rahim Masha’i to the post of first vice-president shortly after the start of his second presidential term.
During his time as the head of the Tourism Organization during Ahmadinejad’s first term as president, Masha’i had become the object of a great deal of controversy. He had been present at a cultural ceremony in Turkey in December 2005 at which women had performed a traditional dance, and he was strongly criticised for that. In 2008, Masha’i hosted a ceremony in Tehran in which several women played tambourines while another carried the Koran to a podium to recite verses from the Muslim holy book. Hard-liners viewed the festive mood as disrespectful to the Koran.
Masha’i faced even harsher criticism following his remarks about the Israeli people. Speaking at a conference on tourism in Tehran, he said: “No nation in the world is our enemy. Today, Iran is friends with the people of America and Israel and this is an honour.” His remarks created an outcry among conservatives who criticised such an unprecedented stance towards Israel. Masha’i rejected all criticism and said: “I am proud of what I said and I am not going to correct myself… I would like to announce for the thousandth time, and stronger than before, that we are friends with all peoples of the world, even the people of America and Israel.”