"This year will be a difficult year. Fasten your seatbelt and put on your iron-clad boots. Soon commotions will be heard."
According to the Tehran-based Javan Online – a publication close to the Revolutionary Guards – this statement was made by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's senior adviser and confidant, Esfandiyar Rahim Meshai, days before the forced resignation of Iran's intelligence minister, Heydar Moslehi, on 17 April.
Moslehi resigned after a major dispute with Meshai and Ahmadinejad over who should head the intelligence ministry's bureau of planning and budget.
Until now, there is nothing extraordinary about this story, because when it comes to firing ministers, no president can beat Ahmadinejad's record in post-revolution Iran. Ministers have been fired before, such as former intelligence minister Gholamhossein Mohseni-Ejei. Others, such as the former foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, were not only fired but humiliated by being dismissed while visiting a foreign country. In fact, Mottaki heard the news of his dismissal from his Senegalese hosts who were informed before he was.
When it comes to saying "You're fired", Ahmadinejad would make Donald Trump and Alan Sugar, the hosts of The Apprentice, look like novices.
But what sets the dismissal of the current intelligence minister apart is the reaction of Iran's most powerful man, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei. Much to the shock and surprise of many Iran observers, and quite possibly the president himself, after staying quiet for seven years and not mentioning a word about Ahmadinejad's dismissals in public, Khamenei has suddenly and publicly put his foot down, like never before.
He did this not only by reinstating Moslehi to his job but by coming out and chastising Ahmadinejad's decision because he felt "expediency is being ignored". Even more surprisingly, Khamenei also stated that: "I won't allow, as long as I'm alive, an iota of deviation of this massive movement of the nation."
But why now? Where has Khamenei been all these years? What is so special about Moslehi that has brought him to utter such a strong condemnation? How come he didn't say anything when Ali Larijani was forced to resign in November 2007? Larijani is infinitely closer to Khamenei than Moslehi.
"Loose lips sink ships" was the famous British slogan during the second world war. UK citizens were told to be careful about what they said, because the enemy might be listening.
Ayatollah Khamenei has the same concern. He did not reinstate Moslehi only because he was becoming concerned about his and Ahmadinejad's growing power – which, as far as some people in Iran's leadership are concerned, is getting out of hand.
What seems to have concerned Iran's leader is the manipulation of intelligence material by Meshai and Ahmadinejad and his rivals for their own political benefit. Although this has probably happened before, Khamenei seems to have realised that it is going too far.