Who is the shadow mayor of Tehran?

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In this revealing exploration of power dynamics within Tehran’s city governance, the article delves into the influential role of Issa Sharifi, known as the “shadow mayor” of Tehran. Acting behind the scenes, Sharifi’s connections, influence, and strategic maneuvers have shaped the city’s policies and projects. The article also examines his relationship with Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, the Kermanshahi circle’s rise to power, and the implications of the Plasco building collapse. A must-read for those interested in the intricate political landscape of Tehran.

Few people have heard the name Issa Sharifi, the shadow mayor of Tehran. Sharifi is the deputy mayor and the coordinator and deputy for regional affairs of Tehran Municipality. This deputyship has the largest budget of Tehran Municipality at its disposal and oversees all municipal areas and civil, traffic, cultural, and social projects.

Issa Sharifi’s acquaintance with Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, the mayor of Tehran, dates back to the war years and the 29th Nabi Akram Division of the Revolutionary Guards in Kermanshah.

The deputy mayor of Tehran is a security figure with a military background who has close relations with the upper echelons of power. However, his main origin is the Revolutionary Guards, and now, as someone who has always been in the shadows, he is the primary candidate for a possible succession to the mayor of Tehran. He is a person whose name is rarely seen in the media.

There are two powerful circles in Tehran Municipality, the Mashhadi circle and the Kermanshahi circle, from which most of the senior managers of the municipality have emerged. However, there may have been less news about the Kermanshahi circle in the media.

Before 1392 (2013 in the Gregorian calendar), the Kermanshahi circle did not have much power, but with Issa Sharifi’s support, they have gained significant strength in the past three years. Two key figures in this movement are Peyman Pashmchizadeh, the deputy for urban planning and architecture, and Mojtaba Yazdani, the deputy for urban services in Tehran Municipality, who have close relations with Sharifi and were appointed to the deputyships of Tehran Municipality from different regions in recent months.

Other members of this circle who have been appointed to municipal positions with Sharifi’s support are Ahmad Safavi, Peyman Ghorbani, and Saeed Talouei.
However, one of the most important figures in the Kermanshahi circle is Hamidreza Heidarian, the former CEO of Tehran Municipality’s Real Estate and Property Organization, an organization that played a significant role in transferring properties to city council members. He is currently the deputy for financial and administrative affairs in Tehran Municipality. All members of the Kermanshahi circle have been appointed to the main deputyships of Tehran Municipality with Issa Sharifi’s support.

One of the reasons for Issa Sharifi’s rise to power as the shadow mayor of Tehran is the support of Ali Asghar Hejazi, the security-political director of Ali Khamenei’s office. Sharifi also has close relations with senior commanders of the Revolutionary Guards due to his service in the corps, to the extent that it is rumored among the Guards’ commanders that he has as much influence and power as Aziz Jafari and Hossein Ashtari.

However, due to his security background, the deputy mayor of Tehran does not have much interest in appearing in the media and has strangely and significantly prevented the publication of news related to his domain. So much so that on the official website of Tehran Municipality, where all the deputyships are introduced, there is no trace of the deputyship for regional affairs, which is, in a way, the most principal deputyship, to be seen.

It is said that this section of the municipality’s website was removed by his order. On the other hand, the municipality’s public relations office used to provide the media with news of Sharifi’s visits to regional projects every Thursday, but this practice has also been stopped, and the publication of this news has been prevented.

However, Issa Sharifi has not only prevented the publication of news related to his domain, but his appearance has also strangely changed since 1392 (2013 in the Gregorian calendar) and with the change of government. In fact, the most important deputyship of the municipality has, in a way, been hidden from view and is engaged in managing Tehran in the shadows.

But there have also been disagreements between the main mayor and the shadow mayor of Tehran, to the extent that Ghalibaf has confessed in one of the meetings with the members of Tehran’s City Council that he does not have the power to confront his deputy.

After the death of Mohammad-Reza Mahdavi Kani, his spiritual father, Ghalibaf has lost support and has not been able to gain the backing of authorities. His recent trip to Qom on the day of the Plasco building collapse was also undertaken with this goal in mind, but it remained unfinished and even failed in practice.

In recent years, members of the City Council have often easily challenged Ghalibaf due to the decrease in support for him. So much so that Alireza Dabir, the head of the Planning and Budget Commission of Tehran’s City Council, has been able to question the performance of the mayor of Tehran and demand accountability from him by obtaining audit information from municipal companies and organizations.

Reports published by Iranian media regarding the audits also indicate a severe disagreement between Ghalibaf and Sharifi. While Sharifi has been preventing the publication of news, he has not taken any specific action regarding the information related to the audits, and Ghalibaf has not been able to neutralize this attack.

It remains to be seen whether the current situation and the incident of the Plasco building collapse, along with the criticisms directed at the performance of Tehran Municipality, will lead Issa Sharifi to emerge from the shadows and have his name recorded as the mayor of Tehran or not?

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