Days after rumors and then action started against Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in parliament, now there is a move among hardliner MPs against the well-connected speaker of parliament.
Some 26 members of the Iranian parliament (Majles) initially called for an investigation into what they described as Majles speaker Ali Larijani's "illegal behavior." Later, some pulled back their co-sponsorship, although on Wednesday one MP claimed that there are five new signatures.
The MPs, who are close to the ultra-conservative Paydari (Steadfastness) Front, have said that Larijani's measure in referring the bills against money laundering and funding terrorism to the Expediency Council was illegal. However, there is no indication that a Parliament, led and effectively controlled by Larijani, would take the motion seriously.
While the move against Zarif is also connected with his support for the bills, it is not clear if the timing of the campaign against Larijani is a coincidence or part of a coordinated push by hardliners against pragmatists.
The four bills, most notably the one about Iran joining the International Convention against Funding Terrorism (CFT), have been ratified by the Majles during the past months, but were later rejected by the Guardian Council for being "non-constitutional" and "against the Sharia'h."
The Guardian Council is tasked by the Islamic Republic constitution to review all legislation passed by parliament. After its rejection of the bills, Larijani referred them to the Expediency Council which is the definitive arbiter in cases where the Majles and Guardian Council disagree over laws.
Although most Iranian and foreign observers attributed the motion against Larijani to his role in ratifying the CFT at the Majles, it may also be a reaction by Iran's hardliners to reports about a possible alliance between President Hassan Rouhani and Larijani, and the latter's possible candidacy in the 2021 Presidential election. The move is possibly aimed at preventing the formation of that alliance and its consequences.
IRGC-linked hardline news agency Fars has described the MPs' letter to the parliament's internal committee as a "call for impeachment" of Larijani. However, Iranian laws are silent about questioning or dismissing the Majles speaker although they contain many articles about the impeachment of the President and cabinet ministers.
However, according to the internal regulations of the parliament, if at least 25 MPs protest to the way a Majles presidium member fulfils his duties, they can call for setting up a hearing committee consisting of parliamentary committees' chairpersons. The presidium member in question may be suspended from the presidium in case a majority of this committee votes for his or her disqualification.
In the next stage, the vote will be first discussed at a closed-door session of the Majles, and then an open session would vote for or against the committee's ruling. In case a majority votes for the ruling, the person in question's status will automatically change to "resigned" and he or she is not allowed to take part in any re-election during that particular term of the Majles.
The MPs who signed the motion against Larijani, including Hosseinali Haji Deligani, Hossein Naqavi Hosseini, and Mojtaba Zolnuri, are among those who led the inconclusive opposition at the Majles to the Iran nuclear deal also called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and the bills against money laundering and financing terrorism, which are part of the requirements of FATF (Financial Action Task Force) in order to take Iran out of its blacklist.
They belong to a group of MPs who generally oppose any rapprochement between Iran and the West, particularly the United States. Their image has already been tarnished because of their support for controversial hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, particularly during his first term in office.
Larjani was effectively instrumental in having the JCPOA and CFT bills ratified by the Majles in 2015 and 2018.
While none of the anti-Larijani MPs, who have already been named, have held key positions in Iran's political establishments before being elected to the Majles, Ali Larijani has always enjoyed the trust and support of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the IRGC where he started his political career. He was Khamenei's representative to the Supreme National Security Council in early 2000s when he was Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, and was appointed by Khamenei as the chairman of Iran's national broadcaster IRIB where he served for nearly a decade.
He is the son of Grand Ayatollah Hashem Amoli Larijani and the brother of Judiciary Chief Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli Larjani. His three other broths also hold top executive and diplomatic posts.
Meanwhile he is well-connected through kinship as his wife is the daughter of Ayatollah Morteza Motahari, one of the founding fathers of the Islamic Republic. Deputy Speaker of Parliament Ali Motahari is his brother-in-law, and his cousins include influential former MP Ahmad Tavakoli. Larijani's proteges, including Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli and Majles Research Center Kazem Jalali, hold key positions in various parts of the Islamic Republic's political establishment.
Larijani may look slim unlike most Islamic Republic politicians, but the MPs who want to unseat him have put themselves at loggerheads with a political heavyweight.