Rouhani strikes back at critics

Iranian president attacks hardliners questioning his policies and his outreach to West

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (screen capture: RTS)
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (screen capture: RTS)

TEHRAN (AFP) — Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday derided hardliners critical of his style of governance and outreach to the West, saying they do not speak for the country.

After a backlash stemming from rising prices of fuel, utilities and basic foods, Rouhani’s administration is increasingly coming under attack from ultra-conservative camps.

“I am proud that the government has created a situation allowing everyone to easily talk and criticize — even though sometimes (they) make a mountain out of a molehill,” he said in remarks broadcast live on state television.

He did not list examples, or name any particular faction, but said those voicing criticism must reveal their political identities and not hide under “the Iranian nation” mantra.

“They should say who they are and whom they are aligned with. They should speak on behalf of their own faction and not for the Iranian nation,” he said, adding that Iranians were seeking “moderation, tranquility and progress.”

To achieve those goals which he says were set by the people electing him as president, Rouhani contends that an economy buckling under the pressure of international sanctions and dented under years of mismanagement must be fixed.

He has rallied domestic support — including the essential backing of Iran’s top authority and supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — to engage world powers over the Islamic republic’s nuclear ambitions and seek an end to sanctions.

But hardliners are opposed to any compromise on Iran’s nuclear work, which Western powers suspect masks military objectives though Tehran insists is purely for peaceful purposes.

Rouhani’s political opponents have been particularly critical of the interim agreement struck in November, under which Iran won modest relief from sanctions and the release of billions of dollars frozen in overseas accounts.

They argue that the concessions Iran made — curbing and freezing some parts of its nuclear drive — outweigh its gains.
Iran and the so-called P5+1 group of the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia plus Germany are now seeking a permanent accord against a July 20 deadline.

‘I am Rouhani’

Rouhani’s domestic policy — wherein he has promised greater social freedoms — is also a target for censure, with many religious figures warning of creeping Western culture targeting Iran’s Islamic and revolutionary values.

Moderates and pro-reformists, who helped Rouhani clinch the elections last year, are also unhappy, saying social change is not being implemented fast enough.

Rouhani’s remarks on Tuesday come amid controversy over a film claiming to document his political career and revolutionary credentials before he assumed Iran’s highest-elected office.

Recalling actions Rouhani made in the 1980s and 1990s as a lawmaker, a top security official and as Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, the movie — called “I Am Rouhani” — depicts him as a figure who transformed from a hard-line revolutionary to a pragmatic technocrat leaning towards the West.

Rouhani did not directly address the movie, but his office has criticized it and said “some parts are incorrect,” without further elaboration.

Considered as an establishment insider since the 1979 Islamic revolution, Rouhani also represented Khamenei in the country’s powerful Supreme National Security Council.

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