Amidst reports of a power struggle at the highest echelons of the Iranian government, it has emerged that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has not been seen for eight days.
The prodigal president has reportedly skipped two cabinet meetings and cancelled a state visit to the city of Qom.
Ahmadinejad is allegedly “boycotting” his official duties as members of parliament have called for a closed debate on his fitness as head of state.
The absence is odd, given Ahmadinejad’s high profile in the media.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, may have antagonized Ahmadinejad by reinstating a cabinet minister, Intelligence Minister Heidar Moslehi, whom the president had earlier removed.
Almost 300 MPs wrote Ahmadinejad a letter to abide by Khamenei’s decision.
You are expected to adhere to the supreme leader [Ali Khamenei] and put an end to that which our enemies are taking advantage of, the lawmakers wrote.
Moslehi reportedly attended a cabinet meeting last Sunday which Ahmadinejad avoided.
According to reports, ultra-conservatives in the government accused Ahmadinejad's aide and chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, of forcing Moslehi’s (temporary) removal.
Mashaie has become a target of Ahmadinejad's opponents. They accuse Mashaie of spearheading current of deviation designed to destroy the Islamic regime.
The Iranian constitution specifies that Khamenei has the final say on all state matters and has the right to veto decisions made by the president on certain cabinet matters.
According to reports, the Parliament has threatened the president with impeachment.
A politician told BBC: I hope one side yields at the end; otherwise it will move the country toward unprecedented instability that will certainly suck the current Arab uprisings into the country.”
Meanwhile, Khamenei has urged parliament to refrain from attacking the president and Mashaie.
[When] a tiny lack of coordination appears, the country is harmed, he said on state TV.
If the lack of coordination is wide and the enemies are made aware of them, (the enemies) create an uproar. They revel. They rejoice when an atmosphere of challenge and confrontation comes to light in the country.”
However, Khamenei's deputy representative in the elite Revolutionary Guards, Mojtaba Zolnour, warned: Today Mashaie is the actual president. Mr Ahmadinejad has held on to a decaying rope [by relying on] Mr Mashaie... I hope that God will rid the president from the evil of this person.”
Rumors are floating that Ahmadinejad may resign over the crisis.