November 12, 2019


Iran's Rouhani shows spark of old self against hard-liners (Rohollah Faghihi, November 12, 2019, Al Monitor)

Fereydoun seemed to be Rouhani's Achilles' heel. But now the president sees himself freed of the limitations and anxiety he'd been carrying on his shoulders. On the same day his brother was sent to prison, Rouhani gave a controversial speech that made both hard-liners and conservatives furious.

"Some say that negotiating with foreigners is a waste of time and we have to confront them, and then one day they will soften their stance, while some believe that war and confrontation won't get us anywhere," said Rouhani.

"We have been debating this for 40 years. We should choose our path," he said, calling for a voter referendum.

In response, Hossein Shariatmadari, chief editor of the state-run hard-liner mouthpiece Kayhan daily, lashed out at Rouhani, saying Oct. 16, "Are we crazy [enough] to negotiate with the US? We are not." Moreover, Kazem Sedighi, a hard-line Friday prayer leader in Tehran, took a swipe at Rouhani, saying Oct. 27 that the president has "forgotten" God.

"Those who insisted on negotiating kept promising that [nuclear] sanctions would be lifted ... and the economy would grow. Which one of your promises has been fulfilled that you rely on negotiation again?" he said, referring to Rouhani's remarks about the need to hold a referendum.

A few days later, Rouhani struck back at hard-liners, speaking about the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a global monitor of money-laundering and terrorism financing.

"Why do some people obstruct the four [FATF-related] bills passed by the government and the parliament? This is not in the interests of the country," the president said.

Rouhani's opponents on the conservative-dominated Guardian Council have held up the bills, even though the FATF removed Tehran from the FATF blacklist and suspended countermeasures, while at the same time urging Iran to meet FATF demands by February or face consequences. The opponents have called the FATF bills "a colonial prescription" for Iran.

In the same speech, targeting conservatives who are hopeful about taking over parliament in 2020, Rouhani described the recent trials of giant companies' executives and CEOs for alleged corruption as campaign maneuvers. But, he said, "I will tell people who has shut down the country."

In reaction, hard-liners dubbed his speech a "new wave of psychological war."  

Posted by at November 12, 2019 5:39 PM