Hardliners in Iran have won back the important position of the parliamentary Commission for National Security and Foreign Policy chairmanship; perhaps as a sign that tensions with the U.S. are impacting Iranian politics.
A relatively moderate lawmaker, Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh was defeated by his ultraconservative challenger in a tight race for the chairmanship of the influential commission.
Less than a year ago, Falahatpisheh had succeeded in ending more than fourteen years of conservative monopoly over the commission's chairmanship, which was headed by a veteran conservative MP, Alaeddin Boroujerdi.
In the latest round of election for the board of directors of the commission, Boroujerdi once again threw his hat into the race but later decided to drop out in favor of a fellow conservative, mid-ranking cleric Mojtaba Zolnour (Zonnouri).
Earlier, in an unprecedented move, Falahatpisheh as the chairman of the commission had called for the United States and Iran to hold talks in Iraq or Qatar to defuse tensions amid a U.S. military build-up in the Gulf.
Citing attempts by "third-parties" to provoke a conflict despite senior officials in Tehran and Washington rejecting war, Falahatpisheh had urged negotiations on Friday, May 17.
"There must be a red desk in Iraq or Qatar where the two sides can meet to end this tension," Falahatpisheh tweeted.
Soon after the tweet, many commentators said that Falahatpisheh’s days as chairman were numbered, since the Islamic Republic Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has repeatedly proved to be ruthless against whoever proposes talks between Tehran and Washington.
Falahatpisheh's successor, Mojtaba Zonnouri (aka Zolnour) is Khamenei's former deputy representative to the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC).
Although retired from the IRGC, Zonnouri has kept his close contacts with the paramilitary force.
Less than a year ago, in an interview with the pro-reform daily Etemad, Zonnouri had claimed that President Barack Obama ordered 2,500 green cards issued to Iranians (families of the elite) to curry favor with 'Tehran's nuclear-negotiating team.
Furthermore, Zonnouri pointed out that only 30 to 40 of the children of top Iranian officials are currently "studying" in the United States, while the majority are "wasting Iranian public money" living "extravagant lives" there.
The right-leaning media in the United States widely reflected the claim, and Fox News presented it in a special report.
Although former officials of the Obama Administration dismissed the claim, President Rouhani and his allies have so far preferred to ignore 'Zonnouri's comments cited by daily 'E'temad.