Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the president of Iran.
Since taking office in 2005 he has been a divisive figure in world affairs, cheering on the development of Iran’s nuclear program despite orders from the United Nations Security Council to halt it, calling for Israel to be “wiped off the map’’ and calling the Holocaust “a myth.”
He was sworn in for a second term in August 2009 after months of turmoil over disputed election results that was put down by force by his allies in the Revolutionary Guards and the Basiji militia.
Mr. Ahmadinejad held onto power with the support of the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, while the country’s police, Revolutionary Guards and militias cracked down on the opposition, arresting large numbers of their leaders and attacking demonstrators.
The nature of the crackdown suggested that Mr. Ahmadinejad had succeeded in creating a pervasive network of important officials in the military, security agencies and major media outlets, a new elite made especially formidable by support from one important constituent, Iran’s supreme leader himself.
By the summer of 2010, Mr. Ahmadinejad appeared to have stamped out public displays of opposition from the moderate opposition, and appeared to be challenging the older conservative imams who had been the guardians of public authority since the 1979 revolution.
He appeared to want to build his own patronage system and source of funds, separate from the intelligence network loyal to the supreme leader, to elect candidates in the 2012 parliamentary elections and most important, in the 2013 presidential race.
Although handpicked by the supreme leader, Mr. Ahmadinejad began to run afoul of his most important patron by challenging the authority of the clergy and trying to recast the presidency into a more powerful post that could operate independently of — and in some cases in contradiction to — Mr. Khamenei.
The strains between Mr. Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Khamenei spilled into more public view in 2011.
At the end of October 2011, Mr. Khamenei made a proposal to eliminate the position of president, highlighting an increasingly bitter struggle within the country’s political elite, as he and his allies continued to try to undercut Mr. Ahmadinejad’s power.
Mr. Khamenei told an academic gathering that “changing Iran into a parliamentary system” in which voters no longer elected a president would not be a problem.