Mojtaba Samareh-Hashemi, an advisor to Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, is not well known to observers outside Iran. However, Iranian politicians and analysts give Mr Samareh, an old friend of the president, a key role in the government’s macro political, economic and international decisions.

His background and how he got to such a senior level in Iran’s political hierarchy has been a question to many.

FT’s Tehran correspondent, Najmeh Bozorgmehr, interviewed Mr Samareh in Farsi in the president’s office downtown Tehran on May 26. An edited transcript follows:

FT: When did you first come into contact with president Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad?

Samareh-Hashemi (SH): My connection with Mr president goes back to 1976.

FT: Were you classmates at Elm-o Sanat [Science and Technology] University?

A: We were at the same university.

FT: What did you study?

SH: Mr president studied civil engineering. I studied architecture. We had some common courses. Our faculties were adjacent. The faculty of architecture was and is still is opposite the faculty of civil engineering.

FT: Could you tell us how your relationship strengthened?

SH: Before the [1979] revolution, student activities were more of religious and political nature. Religious activities were more centred in universities’ mosques. Political activities, which had generally a syndicate cover, were in the form of

student programmes including group trips like mountaineering. We got to know each other in such student programmes.

FT: Any activities against the Shah regime?

SH: Student activities in universities had almost a common style which would look like cultural activities. But holding speeches in the mosque, showing revolutionary films in the university’s amphitheater or mountaineering were mainly a cover for political activities.

FT: Many government’s critics believe that your activities before the revolution were not that outstanding. What is your answer to them?

SH: Of course, you’d have to see if those critics lived before the revolution or not? Thirty years have passed since the revolution. They must be at least 50 years old to be able to judge.

FT: These critics are renowned as student activists before and during the revolution like those who captured the US embassy.

SH: Each university had its own specific activities. Some of the activities were collective. Some universities would coordinate with each other to do the task. Some universities would emphasise on some issues and some other universities on some other issues.

FT: What was your university’s emphasis on?

SH: Elm-o Sanat University was the main base for the Cultural Revolution [A period between 1980-1982 when academia closed to help purge universities of students and scholars deemed un-Islamic]. The Cultural Revolution started from our university but with the help of some other universities. But its base was there.

FT: What kind of role you and Mr Ahmadi-Nejad had in the Cultural Revolution?

SH: Up until before the [Islamic] revolution, as I said, the activities were sporadic more in the form of making speeches and inviting individuals who were approved of by the academics and well-known revolutionary individuals at the time. Before the revolution it was impossible to [have] official organisations. But each university had such miscellaneous activities. Of course some universities were more political and some were less political.

But after the revolution the activities were obvious and public. There were specific political and Islamic organisations and student societies formed rapidly in universities.

Islamic societies were formed and got together setting up the first pillars of common activities. These common activities continued. Some of these common activities later manifested itself in the Cultural Revolution. In our university Cultural Revolution emerged. In some other universities it manifested itself at the time of capturing the Den of Spies [US embassy].

FT: Did you have a prominent role in the Cultural Revolution?

SH: Our university had a prominent role. We were students of that university and active.

FT: Is it true that since then a kind of mentor/follower relationship was formed between you and Mr Ahmadi-Nejad?

SH: This is not a correct interpretation. I must say a friendship and brotherly relationship.

FT: Mr Ahmadi-Nejad himself said that he had been standing for prayers behind you for forty years. Is this true?

H: You are asking me about the truth of comments by Mr Ahmadi-Nejad?

FT: I want you to explain to our readers what does that mean that the president prays behind you?

SH: Well, that doesn’t mean anything. He is ahead [of me] in many activities and I am behind. As for praying, he would say, “you go and stand in front!” It may after all mean that we approve each other.

FT: Do you pray behind him as well?

SH: I have prayed behind him, too.

FT: Has he prayed more behind you or you behind him?

SH: Don’t ask more.

FT: Where were you during the Iran-Iraq war [1980-1988]? Were you in the war fronts?

SH: We have to talk about the Cultural Revolution in more details later because it was the origin of many developments in universities and culture in the country.

After the Cultural Revolution, a council was formed upon Imam Khomeini’s order. The Cultural Revolution Council spent two or three years so that a new system would take place in the universities to review the content of university courses and re-write new one based on the Iranian society’s needs and necessities.

This led to closure of universities for two years, during which a very big potential of students was released from universities. Many students were drawn to Jahad-e Sazandegi [Construction Jihad by which ideologically-motivated forces embark on social services to poorer and rural areas], some were drawn to the Revolutionary Guards [the elite military force] and some went to deprived areas to be of service [to people]. We [Mr Ahmadi-Nejad and myself] chose to serve people in poor areas.

We went to West Azarbaijan province [northwestern Iran] in 1359 [1980] together with some other students and accepted some executive responsibilities in the province.

At that time I think Mr Ahmadi-Nejad was Maku local governor and later he became Khoy local governor. After a year or a year and a half, I left Azerbaijan for Kurdistan province, which was during the war and Kurdistan as a border province was under the attack of the Baath regime. Mr Ahmadi-Nejad stayed in West Azarbaijan province.

I stayed in Kurdistan almost from 1981-1988. Meanwhile, in 1986 I continued my studies part time at the university.

During these years, we were active in separate [places]. I was active in Kurdistan province and he was in West Azarbaijan. Later he returned to university for continuing his studies.

FT: You were in contact with each other?

SH: He was busy with his own work, but friendships have always continued. Always

FT: Weren’t you involved in any war activities?

SH: In Kurdistan I was deputy governor for political affairs till 1985 and then became advisor to the provincial governor general to be able to continue my studies. I was in charge of Sanadaj municipality for some time, too.

FT: What were your responsibilities as deputy governor?

SH: Coordination. For instance I was in charge of Economic Basij [a programme for rationing and fair distribution of basic commodities during the war] in the province.

I even followed up some constructive issues for instance going round to some villages to see if they had any problems. Following up the province’s political activities, connection with the mosques, clerics and academics were other responsibilities.

I was later vice chairman of Azad University in Sanandaj and used to teach some courses at Teacher Training University.

FT: Were the activities of the separatist Kurds who fought with Iranian military within your sphere of responsibility?

SH: I do not at all agree with your interpretations. Fortunately, people in Kurdistan were always present in the scene for the [causes of the] revolution and had a very important role in creating security in Kurdistan.

For this reason a large number of Kurds even joined Basij [voluntary forces] and maintained security of the roads in many places. In fact Kurdistan province had an important role in maintaining the security in that region and also in managing the war fronts.

FT: You deny clashes?

SH: You know that there are some important areas such as Baneh, Marivan or other cities in Kurdistan province that share the same border with Iraq. Or Sardasht in West Azarbaijan. They [the Kurdish people themselves] would establish security in the roads, while Hamedan and Kermanshah provinces provided logistical support.

Sometimes cities such as Marivan, Baneh and Sanandaj would be bombed and officials would have to spend a lot of their time to provide a place to settle the refugees, build camps, prepare suitable nutrition during the war.

People who were under the pressure of war became refugees. These are in general problems that exist for border provinces in a country that is engaged in a war. It was the responsibility of the executive officials of the provinces [to solve these problems] and we would help in this regard.

FT: Were ethnic problems part of your responsibilities?

SH: Some internal unrest which possibly happened more at the border areas such as Baneh and Marivan were dealt with by the Revolutionary Guards and military and security forces.

FT: Was Mr Ahmadi-Nejad in the war fronts during the war years?

SH: Considering that his course of study was civil engineering he helped engineering [in war fronts], but not as an official member [of the Revolutionary Guards] rather like other people in the form of Basij [ideologically-motivated voluntary forces].

FT: Was he a member of Basij organisation?

SH: I don’t know.

FT: But you know Mr Ahmadi-Nejad is introduced, in particular in the western press as a former Revolutionary Guards commander.

SH: No. He has never been a member or an official member of the Revolutionary Guards.

FT: And you say his presence in was only voluntary?

SH: It was when necessary.

FT: How long did this “necessity” last during the war? Did he spend years or months?

SH: I don’t know precisely. He would help when necessary. Considering that time [has passed], I don’t remember exactly. He used to help for logistical support, engineering, war engineering and was present in war fronts. But how long it lasted and in what form it was are the questions that you must ask him.

FT: And after this period, did you go back to Tehran?

SH: After the demise of Imam Khomeini I went back to Tehran to continue my studies at the post-graduate level in urban planning in the faculty of Fine Arts [Tehran University].

FT: Could you tell us about your executive positions until Mr Ahmadi-Nejad’s presidency?

SH: I worked as the executive director of Atisaz Company [one of Tehran’s largest residential complexes] which was affiliated to Bonyad Mostazafan & Janbazan [Foundation for the Oppressed and War Disabled which is one of the Iran’s largest economic and charitable trusts] for a year and a half or two years. Then I went to the foreign ministry responsible for supervising and vetting employees for six and a half years.

FT: As director general [a level below deputy minister]?

SH: I was briefly deputy director general and then director general.

FT: What was Mr Ahmadi-Nejad doing after the war?

SH: Mr Ahmadi-Nejad continued his studies during this time and fortunately he was very talented and successful in his studies. Although he obtained a scholarship to study PhD abroad, he preferred to continue his studies in Iran.

FT: Which country did he obtain scholarship for?

SH: He was given a scholarship in general but he did not have any interest to go abroad and that was when he set up a PhD course for traffic management with the support of professors at Elm-o Sanat University. At the time he was already a member of the university’s academic board.

FT: With a post-graduate degree?

SH: Yes. When he got his post-graduate degree, he was employed by the university.

FT: What kind of working relations you had with Mr Ahmadi-Nejad during these years?

SH: He was also a member of the Atisaz management board and one of its engineers. He worked, taught and studied all at the same time. His main work was his work at the university. He did his PhD and taught as well till he was invited by the interior ministry to become the first provincial governor general of Ardebil.

FT: So, you re-joined him in Tehran municipality?

SH: Yes.

FT: Many analysts give you a lot of weight for the government’s decisions. You are described as the one who does the thoughtful brain job or at least you are Mr Ahmadi- Nejad’s right hand. What can you tell us about that? How has such a strong bond been formed?

SH: What you say is not correct.

FT: I just quoted others.

SH: I reject these quotes.

FT: How do you describe this relationship then?

SH: We are colleagues. I can say that I help in areas that I can.

FT: What are these areas you help him with?

SH: He refers some works to me to be done. There are some letters I do. During provincial trips I meet with the people. In the meetings he has with the people he gives me some responsibilities. We discuss some political issues.

FT: What kind of role you have in the government’s decisions?

SH: The government decides itself.

FT: You are part of the government.

SH: One, imagine out of 30

FT: Was your position as deputy interior minister for political affairs your only executive position in this government?

SH: Yes.

FT: And have you been officially most of the time the president’s advisor?

SH: Yes.

FT: How come an advisor can do executive tasks?

SH: You see some tasks are assigned to you and some others are organisational. For instance, vice-president for executive affairs does all executive tasks. Different ministers have particular responsibilities defined by law.

But there are also some miscellaneous tasks. For instance you have to read an article and then summarise it. Or you’d need to negotiate with someone, or meet with people, or you may be given a mission to go somewhere and make a speech. There are miscellaneous tasks that Mr Ahmadi-Nejad refers to me and I do them.

FT: Do you give any consultation to the president in foreign policy?

SH: If he consults [with me], yes.

FT: What kind of advice do you give him on the US? For instance, if Mr Obama won, considering that he said that he would be prepared to talk to Mr Ahmadi-Nejad without pre conditions – what would be your advice to the president?

SH: Iran’s foreign policies have some principles and those principles are clear. These principles have been stated in the Constitution and at the same time have been defined by Iran’s approaches during 30 years since the revolution. Also macro policies on foreign issues have been specified and are clear in the remarks made by Imam Khomeini or the supreme leader [Ayatollah Ali Khamenei]. Mr President has expressed these [policies] precisely.

Iran’s foreign policy is based on some principles. One of the most important issues is justice which has its own interpretations. There must be a just relationship whether in the bilateral, regional, multilateral or international relationships.

Another issue is friendships, kindness and affection between human beings. Islamic Republic believes relations should be based on friendships and brotherhood. The third point is the issue of spirituality and paying attention to human values. Paying attention to ethics or in one word monotheism [is another principle]. And the last issue is protecting human being’s dignity and rights.

Iran believes that peace, stability and security can be achieved anywhere in the world based on these principles. Wherever one of these principles is marred or not paid attention to, peace and security is endangered.

Iran would like to have relations with the whole world based on these principles. Iran believes in having a friendly, equal and just relationship with the whole world. A relation based on paying attention to humane rights and maintaining human dignity avoiding humiliation and discrimination.

Iran believes in such a relationship with the whole world except for the Zionist regime which lacks all those principles.

Now with regards to America, the same applies. The more these principles are paid attention to by American statesmen naturally there will be more opportunity for the two countries to get closer.

That is to say that any government that care more about justice, recognises the rights of the Iranian people, practices mutual respect and takes stance in accordance with Iranian nation’s deserving position, naturally gets close to the Iranian government and Iran can work better with that government.

This can be Mr Barak Obama or anyone else. Therefore it is the behaviour that is important. Anyone who is closer to such behaviour and stance naturally can be more effective in removing the challenges and problems and in bringing the two governments closer together.

FT: Which candidate is close to the principles you just mentioned?

SH: I’ve given you the criteria and it’s up to the readers to identify that.

FT: So if Mr Obama was prepared to sit and talk to Mr Ahmadi-Nejad without pre- conditions, would Mr Ahmadi-Nejad be prepared to talk?

SH: As I said, the Islamic Republic of Iran’s general policies are cooperation and understanding with all countries in the world except for the Zionist regime. It depends how much the grounds are prepared and the stances are amended. The more the American officials’ stances and behaviour are amended and get closer to the reality, there will be more opportunities for removing differences, and there will be more grounds for more economic, cultural and political relations.

FT: Do you think the result of the American elections will have an impact on the result of Iran’s next presidential elections?

SH: I haven’t thought about this.

FT: Many believe that if a democrat wins, there will be a more possibility for a reformist or a more moderate conservative to win than someone like Mr Ahmadi-Nejad who is known as a radical voice in the foreign policy.

SH: Well, this is because of wrong attitudes towards the issue.

FT: The principles of foreign policy you mentioned are seen as ideological.

SH: No, it’s not a question of ideology. The whole world believes in justice. Is there anyone who would say that he doesn’t believe in justice? Everyone accepts it. Everyone submits to justice. Is there anyone who would find faults with brotherhood and friendship?

Everyone gives in. All of the people in the world accept these. Who likes to be humiliated? Everyone wants to be respected. Everyone wants to live with dignity. Is there anyone avoiding honesty, righteousness and purity? Is there anyone who dislikes these? No, these are some acceptable international principles. These are not the beliefs of a particular party, individual or a group. These are common human values which exist everywhere.

When you use this term ideology, the definition that the westerners have of ideology is different from the one we have in our country. They want to say that being ideological is to think within a completely rigid and limited framework of policies over which you have prejudice.

But when we talk with everyone we talk of common humane values. We are not saying that there is a particular ideology and one can merely have relations within a framework of a particular ideology. We have considered all commonalities. Justice is a global value. No nation or government can stand against justice. Whoever stands against justice will no doubt be condemned. That is to say that the world’s public opinion would condemn him or her. No nation would consent to being humiliated and its rights being trampled upon.

We think these are the policies that all nations and governments would like to have. That is to say a world full of peace and stability, which is one of the biggest concerns of today’s man.

Maybe you want to pour the sea into a glass of water. This is impossible. You cannot do that. They want to have their own interpretation of issues. For instance they may want to interpret Iran’s long-term ideas as some fanatic mentality. This is while Iran’s ideas are truly global ideas and everyone can rally behind them.

For instance you see the opinion polls conducted by the West show Iran’s popularity. The nations of the world have a very positive attitude towards Iran’s stance. Right now in the Middle East, you can see which government and nation the people are inclined to and which governments they don’t like. This is clear in the opinion polls.

What percentage of the people in the Middle East does consider the US as a threat and what percentage consider Iran as a threat? The very recent figures that they’ve published – one of the renowned American institutes – showed that 90 per cent of the people in the Middle East and some other Islamic countries consider America as a threat while less than 10 per cent believed that Iran was a threat. These figures are not compiled by us but by they themselves.

Why is Iran welcomed by the people wherever it goes? Why do people welcome Iran in Latin America, even countries in the East such as Indonesia, Malaysia and China?

FT: But Iran’s president hasn’t been to Europe, for instance, yet.

SH: Yes, this is the case but we are informed about it, too, through our embassies. Inclination towards Islam is the top strong inclination in Europe. A large number of people convert to Islam every year and are added to the Muslim community in Europe.

As I said Iran pursues common global stances. These stances are approved by Europeans, too. Europeans don’t like to be humiliated. European too dislike to see Americans making hidden prisons or getting involved in kidnapping. Europeans would hate to be bullied and pressured by Americans, wouldn’t they? Who would like it? No one. That’s why you see Europe’s policies are not compatible with the US’s policies.

FT: But Iran has given a very negative image of itself to the world’s public opinion which is not an image of a peace-seeking country but a country that is a threat to the world. And now Iran does not intend to give a positive response to the UN resolutions. I’d like to know what the prospect of the nuclear issue is. Would Iran accept the resolutions? Would Iran suspend uranium enrichment?

SH: There are several key points in the nuclear issue which I have to mention. The first point is that Iran is a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and committed to non-proliferation treaty (NPT). Iran has signed the NPT Agreement and has some rights and obligations in line with the IAEA charter.

Iran has fulfilled its obligations like transparency in nuclear activities by allowing in the IAEA inspectors, submitting them required documents, answering their questions, informing the IAEA of its activities and providing them with various accessibilities to supervise Iran.

The latest situation is that Iran asked the IAEA to give us all its questions on our nuclear issue. They submitted their questions in 6 areas each of which had included detailed questions. Iran responded to the IAEA questions in a scheduled programme and it even responded earlier than the scheduled time.

The IAEA wrote an official letter to Iran and announced that it was convinced by Iran’s responses to the 6 questions. Also, IAEA in a statement officially announced that no diversion in Iran’s nuclear activities was detected.

In the meantime, US intelligence organisations in the NIE report (National Intelligence Estimate) announced that Iran’s activities had not diverted toward weaponisation . This is the whole truth.

On the other hand, Iran’s nuclear dossier – in fact Iran’s nuclear issue – was raised in the UN and in the Security Council. The first and second resolutions were passed and voted for, behind which were the US and a couple of US’s allies.

The fundamental [reason] for issuing these resolutions was the accusations that these two or three governments leveled against Iran’s nuclear programme. Islamic Republic of Iran advised several times that you do not have the right to issue resolutions based on allegations.

The Islamic Republic of Iran advised them not to redress a mistake by another mistake. But they didn’t listen. The more the issuing of resolutions continued, the more the deadlock was intensified.

At last in order to get out of this impasse, Iran proposed a new package which has various characteristics. It is comprehensive and has paid attention to political, economic, the energy and nuclear issues and prospect for relations in the future.

That is to say a strategic outlook with regards to the 5+1 countries. It is not just a limited view to the nuclear issue. Another issue that is considerable in this package is that it has referred to a series of existing concerns regionally and internationally, including several challenges that are on going now as well as nuclear threats that exist at the global level.

Several matters of concern by different nations have been addressed in this package such as the issue of energy and security. And it has raised some suggestions and issues which can be negotiated. If Iran’s proposals are paid attention to, everyone will benefit and it will benefit global peace and security.

It is in fact in the direction of collective cooperation and commitments. This is one of the characteristics of Iran’s proposed package. These proposals can bring the 5+1 [five permanent security council members plus Germany] countries out of this impasse which has been created by themselves.

FT: Has Mr Ahmadi-Nejad government backtracked from its first stance? Mr Ahmadi-Nejad kept saying that he did not see any need to talk to any country outside the IAEA framework and now he wants to talk about everything in the form of this package.

SH: Well, what Mr Ahmadi-Nejad said was that the Iranian nation would not negotiate with anyone over its nuclear rights. What is raised today is a comprehensive package which can bring about a horizon of comprehensive cooperation between Iran and other countries such as 5+1. Even other countries can join this trend.

One of the issues in this package is the concerns over the nuclear issue and how we can cooperate on disarmament and non-proliferation. These are all mentioned in that package. Everyone should work equally, have equal relations, commitments and cooperation. This would be in the interest of the world’s peace and security.

FT: What about the package to be delivered by Mr Javier Solana [the EU foreign policy chief]? Does Iran have a positive view on a package in which suspension of enrichment is raised?

SH: It is not yet clear what that proposed package consist of.

FT: But it is not without a request for suspension?

SH: At that time Iran will announce its stance.

FT: I’d like to know if there can be any flexibility on the issue of uranium enrichment?

SH: Iran wants to create an atmosphere wider than existing issues that they [5+1] have concentrated on which has caused a deadlock. It has created a wider umbrella for the possible cooperation and relations. Iran has passed by the suspension of uranium enrichment.

FT: But when I speak to western diplomats they say that if this step is not taken, no other steps can follow. It seems under no circumstances it is acceptable at least to the West for Iran to continue enrichment and at the same time enjoy regional and international cooperation.

SH: This is their problem.

FT: Considering the fact that there are no signs that Iran would implement the UN resolutions, do you see any probability for an attack during the last months of US president George Bush in office?

SH: There is no question of attacking Iran at all.

FT: You don’t even see a slim chance?

SH: Any such move would need a suitable international atmosphere, logic, a particular analysis and special situation. We think that those who open up such issues are those who have been rejected by the American community. They are shunned by the public opinion. Neither the situation is prepared for this move, nor anyone dare to attack Iran.

FT: The Iranian government is also under a lot of domestic pressure. Do you believe there are more internal threats now than foreign threats?

SH: The Iranian nation has never backtracked from safeguarding its independence. Domestic problems are temporary, they come and go. The whole world witnessed how high the turnout was in the parliamentary elections on May 14. It is the best sign to show that our nation insists on its rights and will remain firm.

FT: In national elections during the past few years, including the third municipal polls, the Assembly of Experts elections and the parliamentary election there has been a political trend by which more moderate forces are taking over the political scene, while supporters of Mr Ahmadi-Nejad have been losing. Aren’t you worried that Mr Ahmadi-Nejad may not be re-elected in next year’s election?

SH: I just cannot understand how you’ve reached such an analysis

FT: From the Iranian media.

SH: The results of parliamentary elections prove that such an analysis is wrong.

FT: So do you think in the parliamentary elections the pro-government forces won?

SH: Does anyone think otherwise?

FT: The critics of the government think differently but I would like to know your view.

SH: Can you give me a code?

FT: There are plenty in every day’s papers.

SH: Before the parliamentary election the government’s critics kept saying that the elections were a kind of polling on Mr Ahmadi-Nejad’s government. But when the elections were over, they kept silent.

In any country people can have some criticism. But what I say is that the people stand firm on their principles. Any government that stands on these principles and respects people will remain stable.

The government’s slogans are the very slogans of the people and the government’s wishes are the very wishes of the people. Of course there could be some problems in the country. Despite some problems which come and go, people see that the government works and operates with its utmost capability. If your criteria for judgment are the views of those who were the government’s critics from the beginning and will remain critics for ever you will be misled.

FT: Will Mr Ahmadi-Nejad re-run for president next year?

SH: It is too soon to talk about that.

FT: Would you advise him to run?

SH: So far we haven’t talked about it. We’ve got 15 months before the beginning of the next government.

FT: When will Mr Ahmadi-Nejad announce that he will run for the elections?

SH: When the time is right.

FT: Do you think he will run?

SH: I cannot speak on his behalf.

FT: Considering your background and the years of friendship between you and Mr Ahmadi-Nejad, which period had the most impact on the mentality you two have today with regard to policies? Which period was more prominent for you?

SH: When there are common principles, whether you want it or not, there will be a compatibility of thoughts which does not depend on a particular period. Naturally, friendships formed in young ages in particular university period are stronger and last longer. Your friends during the university time are more there for you.

FT: Many analysts say that the mentality of Mr Ahmadi-Nejad and his small circle of advisors go back to the war period. They believe the sudden and unpredictable decisions which resemble attacks are derived from the mentality of that period.

SH: Actually we were separated during the war. I was in Kurdistan and he was in Tehran. Therefore this is a wrong analysis

FT: One of the main questions that has remained un-answered is how you gained power? You do not have the record of for instance Mr Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani [former president] before the Revolution, you weren’t renowned commanders during the war, you do not have remarkable management records after the war. How did you mange to enter this field?

SH: You have to ask the Iranian nation.

FT: Are you saying that this was only due to the power of the people?

SH: It was people’s choice.

FT: Many are of the belief that the power of the Revolutionary Guards helped you.

SH: Do you believe them?

FT: I’m asking you. I don’t think anything.

SH: No, this isn’t the case. You shouldn’t use the term gaining power. You must interpret it from the other side which is more accurate. People welcomed Mr Ahmadi-Nejad. This was because he insisted on principles which the people believed in from the bottom of their hearts, in the same way that people made the revolution with a lot of excitement and joy.

His slogans were in fact a sincere return to the revolution’s slogans. People saw sincerity in his slogans and stance such as justice, being of service to God’s beings, affection, prosperity and promotion of the country. People demanded a new generation of managers be in charge of executive positions in the country and advance the affairs.

FT: What kind of role the Revolutionary Guards had?

SH: No role. You see some people are in the Revolutionary Guards, some people are pupils, some are academics, some are clerks, some are businessmen and some are into industry. Like other groups such as academics and businessmen the Revolutionary Guards only voted in the election.

FT: What gives Mr Ahmadi-Nejad such a power to easily remove a political heavy weight like Mr Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi [former interior minister]?

SH: I answered your last question.

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