The contender

Tehran Mayor Ghalibaf resigns, then withdraws resignation


The contender
by Meir Javedanfar

Sometimes news takes time to get out of Iran - particularly when it comes to internal strife in the upper political echelons. But eventually, major clashes leak out. This week the news emerged that Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, the mayor of Tehran and Ahmadinejad's main rival in the Osulgarayn (Principalist) movement, resigned from his post just before the end of the previous Persian calendar year - approximately March 18 or 19.

A number of days later, he was reinstated to his job after his resignation was rejected by senior officials, most likely the supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei.

The news was first published in the Tehran-based Jahan News, which is affiliated with Iran's Ministry of Information and Security, known by its Farsi acronym as VAVAK.

According to the report, the main reason for Ghalibaf's resignation was the termination of supply of cement, primary materials, and tools required by the Tehran municipality for its subway project for the city of Tehran. This follows another controversial decision by the government to cut subsidized gasoline provided to the municipality's cars. This decision forced the organization to purchase gas at market prices - six or seven times the price. These decisions first caused a number of senior municipality managers to resign, followed by the mayor himself.

The very fact that he took a step as extreme as resigning from his post is an indication of the intensity of the rivalry between him and Ahmadinejad. As mayor of Tehran, Ghalibaf depends on the national government, and Ministry of Interior in particular, to supply him with material and subsidized goods for city projects. He can't just simply go out and buy them himself.

According to government regulations, the Ministry of Interior must approve every purchase and, in many cases, supply the goods as well as the funds. As president, Ahmadinejad wields power over the Ministry of Interior and other ministries that deal with Tehran Municipality. With such power, he can make life as easy and as difficult for Ghalibaf as he chooses.
Since 2005, Ahmadinejad has decided to do the latter.

Numerous projects have been delayed. A notable one was the supply of buses to the municipality for its Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) scheme, which Ghalibaf has been championing as a solution to Tehran's traffic problems since late 2005. This notwithstanding the $600 million of approved funds, which the government refused to release to the municipality.  Recently, Ghalibaf hit back, removing posters celebrating the 100th anniversary of the country's oil industry, which showed Ahmadinejad standing in front of a refinery.

Ahmadinejad's perception of Ghalibaf as a threat is quite accurate. There are many within the Iranian conservative movement who are concerned about the damage Ahmadinejad and his disastrous economic policies have caused their movement. They see Ghalibaf and his support for more moderate foreign and economic policies as hope for redemption.
There is also Ghalibaf's military record as well, far more distinguished than that of Ahmadinejad. Ghalibaf was a senior commander in the Revolutionary Guards, and unlike Ahmadinejad, he has lost family (his brother) in war.

The resignation of Khatami also seems to have boosted Ghalibaf's position. Some of Khatami's supporters now back Mousavi (Khatami's replacement). According to Shafaf News from Tehran, more than half of Khatami's supporters now back Ghalibaf. One of the main reasons is thought to be because they see Ghalibaf as a good prospect, due to his good relations with the Revolutionary Guards and Khamenei himself.

Judging by Khatami's resignation and Ghalibaf's temporary resignation, the level of discord within the Iranian government is reaching a new level, and Ayatollah Khamenei knows this. This is why Khatami was most probably advised not to run: because the animosity which he creates between the conservatives would have created more division and infighting.
Ghalibaf's resignation would have been another embarrassing blow, as he could have become the second senior official (after Larijani) to resign because of Ahmadinejad - hence the successful pressure on him to reverse his decision.

These developments show that President Obama's policy of refusing to negotiate with Iran until after the presidential elections is on target. Once the elections are over and the dust settles, Washington will be in a much better position to deal with Tehran. Waiting until then will not be an easy decision, especially economically. According to a recent study by the CATO Institute, oil prices are set to rise again, which could force Americans to pay $3 or $4 for their gasoline at the pump.
This will provide Iran's political hierarchy with more leverage at the negotiations.

However, negotiating before the elections could bolster Ahmadinejad and weaken the people of Iran, as well as politicians such as Ghalibaf who oppose the president. This must be avoided.

Hopefully, the political divisions and the internal enemies Ahmadinejad has created may do a much better job of bringing him down than the U.S. or Israel ever could.

Meir Javedanfar is an Iranian – Israeli Middle East Analyst. He runs the Middle East Economic and Political Analysis Company (meepas). He recently started the Middle East Analyst blog ( This article originally appeared in PJM Media.


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more from Meir Javedanfar

Harvard,,, ha?

by KouroshS (not verified) on


DO they go there as visting fellows, or is it just a cover and where they really spend time working and well... visiting, is the cafeteria and the janitorial services?

I have always wondered about that!

بت شکن

You mean the next Harvard fellow?

by بت شکن on

By suggesting if Ghalibaf is a new Sazaegara in the making, you are effectively nominating him for a visiting fellowship at Harvard, which seems to be the institution of choice for the former pasdars and Islamists to raise their non academic profiles and gain academic and social legetimicy. Examples: Soroush and Mahdavi-Damghani (google him). Whether Ghalibaf wins this election or loses it, Harvard is the winner. After al, there is always Dr Mahmoud Ahmadinejad waiting in the wings!


Could he be the next Sazegara in the making?

by KouroshS (not verified) on

What a show they are puttin on LOL .
Tearing off his posters was indeed a typical show of laj o laj bazi, of the islamic kind. Sad to see that despite all this mosho gorbe bazi and gestures of opposition and defiance, they are still those who actually fall for these lies and deceptions.

What is the worst that can happen? if he does not get elected there is always a seat on either VOA or PArs or Channel One... for him to join the others former pasdars. This one even offers more money.

Meir Javedanfar


Meir Javedanfar

و درود به همه هموطنان عزیزم

از شما در رابطه به نخست وزیری اقای
نتانیاهو و سیساستهای او در قبال با ایران
سوال کردید
. هم
اینجا و هم در محافل دیگر
. سوال
شما بسیار منطقی هستش

اسرائیل در این موضوع بستگی به شخص و شخصیت
. از
دیدگاه دولت اسرائیل مسئله ایران بسیار
پیچیده خطرناک و حساس است
. نفوز
دولت ایران در منطقه گسترش یافته
امریکا 140
هزار سرباز در منطقه
مقرر کرده و دولت اسرائیل اگاه از دوستی
مردم ایران است
. جمع
این مسائل اورشلیم را وادار کرده که دقت
زیادی را در این مسئله به اجرا بگذارد

علارقم تهدید های لفظی و شعار های پوپیولیست
حزب لیکود در عمل دولت اسرائیل بسیار
مواظب خواهد بود

هسته ای ایران از شعارهای اقای نتانیاهو
, گسترده
تر و هوشمندتر هستش


مهر و ارادت




a real Ghalibaf for Iran's presidency!

by Anonymous (not verified) on

This a funny video and it shows our presidential candidates.If the media wants to have fun or make fun of someone,this is how they do it.

I Have a Crush on Alex Trebek

Please stop working at pajamas media!

by I Have a Crush on Alex Trebek on

it's like the mcdonalds of "middle eastern studies".

khaleh mosheh

Before or after elections

by khaleh mosheh on

Dear Mr Javedanfar,

Thank you for your analysis. 

Do you think Mr Netanyahoo should attack Iran before or after the elections? Perhaps it is better before as then Mr Obama will be presented with an accomplished deed.


Also it is good to know that there are really well meaning and knowledgable Iran  analysts, about. There has been a recent blog on who should be called an Iran analyst. No doubt there is no connection between that blog and this well meaning and informative piece.


I like This guy

by Lavashak (not verified) on

I really like this guy. He is charismatic and intelligent. He is also very good looking. I like him, but I love President Ahmadinejad. He is really really a great guy. He will be part of the history of the 20th century. I know that he is made fun of and people in the west don't like him because of Israel, but he is great.
No matter what the iranian people will make the right choice in the election and i will respect their vote no matter how i feel about the candidate.
God bless IRAN


Who needs Mahmoud when we've got Avigdor?

by Shadooneh (not verified) on

The racist hooligan who is the FM of Israel has replaced Ahmadinejad as the despot-to-hate in the Middle East. Ahmadinejad will be history soon and the new right wing Israeli government with its lightning rod will be the new target.

Go figure.


I love this guy

by Alireza Massoudi (not verified) on

I love this guy. He is the best. I am proud that he is my mayor.