In an unprecedented statement, the ultra-conservative chairman of the influential Assembly of Experts, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, has called upon President Hassan Rouhani to apologize to the people of Iran for not respecting conditions laid out by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei for negotiating the nuclear deal.
The statement was initially attributed to the whole assembly, but later it was published as the chairman’s personal communique.
The Assembly of Experts of the Leadership (AEL), also known as the Assembly of Experts (AoE), is the deliberative body empowered to designate and dismiss the Islamic Republic’s Supreme Leader and supervise his performance.
Hours after the publication of the statement, two members of AEL declared that they were unaware of it.
“The statement might have been signed by several members of the assembly while their fellows are unaware of its content,” Tehran’s representative to AEL, mid-ranking cleric Hashem Bat’haei, told the “Rooydad 24” news website.
Another member of the assembly, moderate cleric Hashem Hashemzadeh Herissi also dismissed the statement, insisting that it was not an official AEL document.
In the statement, Rouhani is accused of disregarding red lines set by Ali Khamenei for the government’s nuclear talks with the U.S. and world powers. The deal now appears to be dead in the water after President Donald Trump announced the U.S. withdrawal from the agreement earlier this month.
President Rouhani, who orchestrated the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal, should “present his apologies to the Iranian nation for the damage it has caused,” 91-year old Jannati said.
Rouhani’s team says all JCPOA-related negotiations were held under the direct supervision of the Supreme Leader. They also point out that negotiations began during Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s presidency.
Khamenei gave his blessing to the deal early on in October 2015, but listed certain conditions for Iran’s participation in the agreement. The Supreme Leader’s conditions were immediately dismissed by negotiators on both sides as they were presented after the deal had already been signed.
Khamenei has at different times described the nuclear deal as a “heroic victory” for himself, as well as criticized it as “totally skewed” in favor of the West.
Jannati’s statement coincided with Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s arrival in Brussels May 14 on his tour to try to salvage the deal with European partners despite the U.S. withdrawal.
Zarif has been assigned to seek the remaining JCPOA parties’ assurances they will hold up their end of the deal if Iran remains loyal in its commitment to curb its nuclear program.
Jannati has also cast doubt on Zarif’s latest efforts, dismissing them as pointless since, as he says, European powers are in league with the U.S. against Iran.
Meanwhile, Chief Commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari has also joined the chorus of conservatives lambasting the Rouhani administration. Criticizing “certain officials” who “turn to foreigners,” Gen. Jafari said, “I hope recent events will lead us to ending our trust in the West and the Europeans.”
“The Europeans have repeatedly proved that they are not capable of resisting U.S. sanctions,” IRGC-run Fars news agency cited Jafari as saying.
Reacting to Jannati’s vitriolic communique against the government, Rouhani’s administration has fired back by accusing “anti-government assailants” of “joining voices with the enemy.”
Meanwhile, outspoken Deputy Speaker of parliament and MP from Tehran Ali Motahari has stepped in to defend the government against Jannati’s attacks.
One of Iran’s most “complicated problems” is the interference of different institutions in each other’s affairs, Motahari lamented, adding, “The Assembly of Experts has no legal right to interfere in cases such as the JCPOA or to set agendas for the president or parliament.”