It looks like Iranian presidentMahmoud Ahmadinejad is in bad odour with supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. – to such a extent that key allies have been neutralised with trumped up charges of sorcery,
Several people said to be close to the president and his chief of staff Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei have been arrested nd charged with being "magicians" and invoking djinns (spirits).
An Iranian news website, described one of the arrested men, Abbas Ghaffari, as "a man with special skills in metaphysics and connections with the unknown worlds".
The arrests signal a serious rift betweenAhmainejad and Khamei which has prompted several MPs to call for the president to be impeached. On Sunday, Ahmadinejad returned to his office after an 11-day walkout in an apparent protest over Khamenei's reinstatement of the intelligence minister, who the president had asked to resign.
Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, a hardline cleric close to Khamenei, warned that disobeying the supreme leader – who has the ultimate power in Iran – is equivalent to "apostasy from God". Ahmadinejad has so far declined to officially back Khamenei's ruling over Heydar Moslehi, the minister at the centre of the row. In the first cabinet meeting since the president returned, Moslehi was absent.
Khamenei's supporters believe that the top-level confrontation stems from the increasing influence of Mashaei, an opponent of greater involvement of clerics in politics, who is being groomed by Ahmadinejad as a possible successor.
But the feud has taken a metaphysical turn following the release of an Iranian documentary alleging the imminent return of the Hidden Imam Mahdi – the revered saviour of Shia Islam, whose reappearance is anticipated by believers in a manner comparable to that with which Christian fundamentalists anticipate the second coming of Jesus.
Conservative clerics, who say that the Mahdi's return cannot be predicted, have accused a "deviant current" within the president's inner circle, including Mashaei, of being responsible for the film.
Well there you have it. Ahmadinejad is in trouble, which in itself does not make me in any way sad. Still , the fact that his troubles are coming from the ultraconservatives is not exactly reassuring. If Ahmadinejad is deposed by people even more fanatical than he is what then for Iran?
I am not sure that there is anything for the progressives to capitalise on here but it will be interesting to watch events as they devlop.