Watch: Iran’s ex-president Ahmadinejad’s very awkward kiss with the supreme leader

Iran’s supreme leader, 75-year-old Ayatollah Khamenei, underwent prostate surgery on Monday in Tehran. Video released by the Iranian government shows former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other government officials visiting him in the hospital before the operation. (Khamenei News via YouTube)

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is currently in hospital after undergoing prostate surgery on Monday. The 75-year-old cleric is reported to be in «good condition», though he did issue this stern message before the procedure: «There is no room for concern, but this does not mean that they – the people – do not need to pray.»

In his convalescence, Khamenei has been visited by a stream of prominent Iranian politicians, beginning with President Hassan Rouhani. Rouhani and subsequent grandees gave Khamenei a reverential peck on the cheek or forehead.

The video above, published originally on Khamenei’s Twitter account, shows a number of dignitaries paying homage to the ayatollah. When meeting the white-turbaned, clean-shaven Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Khamenei even offers a warm smile and a nod. Rafsanjani, an influential politician who some see as a reformer, was barred by Khamenei from contesting presidential polls last year that Rouhani eventually won.

But then comes Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Rouhani’s predecessor as president, who by the end of his eight-year tenure was deeply at odds with Khamenei. Ahmadinejad, with his customary thin grin, leans over to kiss Khamenei in greeting. The supreme leader doesn’t seem overly thrilled with his presence.
Khameni News via YouTube

Notorious in the West for his bellicose rhetoric, Ahmadinejad presided over Iran’s deepening isolation on the international stage. A populist firebrand, he was for a time closely allied to the supreme leader, but gradually started to rebel against the ayatollah’s authority. Their power struggle grew turbulent, with angry public exchanges between Ahmadinejad and Khamenei allies offering an unusual glimpse behind the curtain of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s leadership. In 2011, Khamenei loyalists even had some of Ahmadinejad’s closest advisers charged with sorcery.

Ahmadinejad became something of a lame duck president in Tehran, even while remaining a bogeyman for hawkish politicians in Israel and the United States. Since winning the 2013 elections, Rouhani and his Western-educated foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif have made clear Tehran’s intent to move away from the rancor of Ahmadinejad’s rule. The former president’s hardline supporters, though, have been vociferous in their opposition to the Rouhani administration’s attempts for rapprochement with the United States and a deal regarding Iran’s controversial nuclear program.

Authorities in Tehran, presumably with Khamenei’s blessing, have kept Ahmadinejad in their crosshairs. Last week, a judge sentenced one of his former vice presidents to imprisonment and a fine for unspecified charges. Mohammad Reza Rahimi was suspected by some of embezzlement, reports Al Jazeera. Last month, Iran’s parliament published a list of 24 violations it accused Ahmadinejad of committing while in office in a deliberate bid to thwart his return to politics.


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