- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his would-be successor, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, are planning a coup to dismantle the cleric-run power structure of the government, The Times of Israel reports.

Mr. Ahmadinejad, whose term ends in August and who is supporting his chief of staff, Mr. Mashaei, to take his place, is plotting an “extraordinary attack” against Iran’s clerics to “separate mosque and state,” the Times of Israel says.

Iran’s government is a theocracy, and Mr. Ahmadinejad has had a tenuous relationship with clerics, who have tried — without much success — to subdue his power.

The Times of Israel reports said Mr. Ahmadinejad and Mr. Mashaei hope to “effectively dismantle the theocratic structure.” Mr. Mashaei, meanwhile, adds that he has “the deepest respect for the clerics, but they are not politicians. Their presence is damaging Iranian politics. Their role should be spiritual only.”

Mr. Mashaei said the next four years brings “an opportunity to change the constitution,” according to the report.

But his succession is hardly guaranteed. He first has to win approval to run in the election from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — the same entity who publicly has denounced Mr. Ahmadinejad’s governing tactics.

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