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Rouhani's Man Dismisses Hardliner's Criticism, Blames All Leaders For Failures

Ali Rabiei, spokesperson of President Hassan Rouhani's government. FILE PHOTO

The Rouhani administration's spokesman Ali Rabiei has reacted strongly to an open letter by key members of the Iranian parliament who criticized President Hassan Rouhani, saying it may flare up political and social conflicts in Iran.

Rabiei described the tone of the letter by heads of key parliamentary committees as "non-constructive and confrontational," but added that the letter could open a new chapter for the country if all leaders move ahead with a new commitment to many reforms.

But what is more noteworthy in the Rabiei’s words is his admission that the Islamic Republic has failed to build a competitive economy, which is weak compared even with other regional countries. He also blames mistakes going back four decades and says all the leaders have been responsible.

The heads of the Majles committees, who are all hardliners, in a letter to Rouhani on Friday June 26 called on him to change his administration's policies and improve its effectiveness "before it is too late."

It was a clear attempt to blame the president for the current economic situation, when the main cause of the crisis is U.S. sanctions related to Iran's foreign policy. Rouhani has little control over military and foreign policy decisions.

The lawmakers described Iran's current situation as "painful," and said Rouhani "should change the way he has been managing the affairs of the state during the first seven years of his presidency to alleviate the nation's financial problems and to stabilize the markets."

Among other things, they asked Rouhani "to look in the face of children who are searching the garbage for food, and those who are working at a fragile age" when he is on his way to the office.

Rabiei welcomed the letter as part of a "dialogue" between the Majles and the administration and said he was also interested in pinpointing problems in the past that have led to the current situation. However, he said that the letter has unilaterally blamed the Rouhani administration as if the Majles and other power centers have had no responsibility in the creation of the difficult economic situation.

In this regard Rabiei implicitly blames even the Supreme Leader since he says all share the blame for the current situation and he mentions the country’s foreign policy as one reason.

"The letter pretends that everything has been ideal before 2013 when Rouhani took office, as if he inherited no unpleasant legacy in the areas of economy, foreign policy, domestic politics, culture, and so on," said Rabiei, reminding that many of the signatories were the members of previous governments.

He also reminded the lawmakers claiming to be revolutionaries, that 9 of them were the members of parliaments during president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s tenure and three others were active in his administration. Rabiei told them nothing will be solved if they do not accept their responsibility for that period.

Acknowledging that the size of Iran's economy and Iran's status in the world is less than what they should have been, Rabiei advised new MPs to offer practical solutions for the country's problems rather than offering general and undefined solutions such as Jihadi management and reviving the revolutionary spirit.

He said "the current rate of inflation in Iran is the natural outcome of over 50 years of double digit inflation and the fact that there has been an annual 25 percent increase in liquidity during the past 40 years," and claimed that the Rouhani administration's performance during the past seven years has been acceptable. Rabiei also called on the critics to say clearly what the Central Bank should do to solve these problems and accused them of not knowing the problem and not having a solution for it.

Elsewhere in his response, Rabiei suggested introducing reforms in banking regulations to prevent financial corruption, inefficiency and inflation, as well as introducing laws to prevent conflict of interests on the part of officials and to guarantee transparency in economic transactions.

He also called for structural reforms in the areas of elections, environment, media, taxation, and the laws governing the way businesses operate in Iran.

Rabiei said although the lawmaker’s interest in dealing with difficult economic matters is promising, yet he is concerned that this interest could be turned into sheer opposition with the administration rather than a way of solving existng problems.

He said this kind of approach based on short-term interests might lead to unnecessary decisions such as imposing strict control on the Internet and social media particularly Instagram where millions of Iranians are active and are using it as part of their everyday life while millions of others are running their businesses on the platform. Such decisions will have no effect other than causing concerns among the people. He reminded the MPs of the futility of the law against satellite TV.

Instead, in an ironic advice that meant the MPs should mind their own business, he suggested that the members of Parliament should try to reform the internal regulations of the Majles to make it more efficient.