Ahmadinejad Defies Ayatollah, Refuses to Sack Vice Prez

In-law stays despite pro-Israel comments
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 22, 2009 7:58 AM CDT
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, left, speaks with VP Esfandiar Rahim Mashai. In 2008, Mashai angered hardliners when he said Iranians were "friends of all people in the world, even Israelis."    (AP Photo/Fars News Agency,Ali Rafiee)
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(Newser) – Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has defied a direct order from Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to dismiss his vice president, opening a rift between Iran's president and supreme leader, reports the Los Angeles Times. Ahmadinejad's newly chosen VP, who is his son's father-in-law, has infuriated hardliners by making favorable remarks about Israel. But Ahmadinejad surprised the Iranian elite by keeping him in office, saying, "He is very loyal to the Islamic Revolution and a servant of people."

The VP attempted to close ranks by turning back on his seemingly pro-Israel comments, which he called "a kind of psychological war against the usurper regime." Anti-government protests continue in Tehran, where yesterday plainclothes members of the feared Basiji militia beat demonstrators with truncheons, leaving one woman unconscious. Mir Hossein Mousavi, the leader of the protests, said on a website this morning that he would establish a new political grouping by the end of the week.