The conservative Assembly of Experts (AE) has lambasted President Hassan Rouhani’s government for its economic performance, disclosing that Rouhani rejected the assembly’s invitation to come forward and present a report concerning Iran’s economic problems to the influential body.
However, according to the government’s official news agency, IRNA, Ahmad Khatami representing the Assembly, who was speaking at a press conference on August 27, maintained he was unaware of the reasons for the rejection.
Insisting that no one at the AE is trying to “catch someone red-handed," the senior cleric noted that the heads of two other powers of the government -- brothers Ali and Sadeq Larijani, heads of the parliament and the judiciary, respectively -- have accepted a similar invitation.
Rouhani (since 2007) and Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli Larijani (since 1998) are members of the Assembly of Experts.
According to the Iranian Constitution, the AE is the deliberative body empowered to designate and dismiss the supreme leader of the country, while supervising his performance.
Nonetheless, the it has not issued even a single report on the performance of the current leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, so far. Instead, it has repeatedly issued statements concerning political, economic, and other governmental affairs.
Khatami said that the AE is scheduled to debate the people’s livelihood and Iran’s economic situation at its next sessions on September 4-5.
Iran's economic situation has deteriorated in recent months, as renewed U.S. sanctions have created uncertainty, leading to capital flight from the country and the devaluation of the currency.
This has led to intermittent protests, with people openly calling for regime change.
The conservative clerical and military wings of the regime are scrambling to deflect public anger and increasingly attack the executive branch led by Rouhani for the economic mayhem.
Nearly three weeks ago, the AE called upon the heads of the executive, judicial, and legislative branches to be accountable for the current economic woes of the country.
Khatami has argued that, based on its internal bylaws and regulations, the AE has the authority to debate the “internal and international developments, particularly the political, social, economic, cultural, managerial, and intelligence affairs."
Earlier, on May 13, the AE issued a controversial statement, calling upon Rouhani to publicly apologize for “ignoring the red lines” and not “achieving necessary guarantees” during the talks that led to the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA) or Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers.
However, the statement was followed by such a widespread negative reaction from AE members that the influential body’s secretariat was forced to admit the statement had been issued by the chairman of the body, 91-year-old Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, and not the whole assembly.
Attacks against Rouhani and his government’s performance, particularly in the economic sector, gained momentum on August 16, when a protest rally was held at Qom’s seminary. The participants in the unprecedented rally carried banners that implicitly threatened Rouhani with death.
Nevertheless, the supreme leader has refrained from reacting to the development.
Khatami blamed the government for not being able to control skyrocketing prices and tacitly admonished Rouhani for “illegally” raising taxes up to 60 percent. However, he stopped short of saying which taxes exactly.
Two of Rouhani's ministers have already been impeached by parliament, as the full force of ayatollah Khamenei's conservative allies is bearing down on the government.