A top aide of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been arrested, fuelling the power struggle between the president and the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Kazen Kiapasha is a close ally of Ahmadinejad’s chief of staff Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei. Kiapasha was appointed by Mashaei to take over a key role in the presidential office that would allow him to vet all presidential aides before being hired.

Mashaei himself is said to be Ahmadinejad’s chosen successor.

The rift between the president and the supreme leader erupted on 17 April when Ahmadinejad asked Intelligence Minister Heider Moslehi to resign. Khamenei refused to accept his resignation and Ahmadinejad then boycotted his official duties for more than eight days before reappearing on 1 May to hold a cabinet meeting (MEED 8:5:11).

A further 25 other people close to the president and Mashaei have also been arrested by Khamenei’s intelligence officers in recent weeks accused of using supernatural powers to further Ahmadinejad’s policies. Mashaei is also accused of spying on behalf of foreign governments. Espionage is punishable by death under Iranian law.

The mistrust between the president and supreme leader ahead of the 2012 parliamentary elections and the 2013 presidential election is said to have led to the electronic surveillance of Mashaie’s office. This in turn led to Ahmadinejad forcing the intelligence minister to resign in the first place.