Before leaving for Istanbul on Monday, Ahmadinejad tried to reclaim the high ground, while restating his loyalty to Khamenei.
“Due to actions of two groups, I feel it is necessary to once again defend the supreme leader,” Ahmadinejad told Iranian state television. “One group is those who assume that the supreme leader is a tool for regulating political debates between parties for their advantage. And another group is the one that defends the supreme leader in a wrong manner.”
Even hard-line supporters criticize president
In fact, it is Ahmadinejad and his controversial chief of staff who have been widely accused of deviation from the tenets of Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution, and from accepted Shiite religious practice. Some of Ahmadinejad and Mashaei's close advisers have been arrested for “sorcery” in recent days.
Ahmadinejad this week repeated his statement that Khamenei’s relationship with him is like a father to a son. But even high-ranking hard-line voices in the regime, who have supported Ahmadinejad for years, have taken aim at the president this time.
“To obey and submit to the supreme leader is a religious duty that has nothing to do with politics,” said Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi, who has often been cited as the president’s spiritual mentor. He added that the president’s “legitimacy is based upon the approval of the supreme leader and not the popular vote,” according to a translation by Agence France-Presse.