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Iran Lawmakers Call Zarif A 'Liar', Table Motion To Question Rouhani

Mohammad Javad Zarif angrily defending himseld at the Iranian parliament. July 5, 2020

Iranian lawmakers continuously heckled Foreign Minister Javad Zarif at the Iranian Parliament on Sunday July 5 throughout his speech, which was interrupted several times.

Zarif was at the Majles on Sunday to brief the parliament and offer explanations on some foreign policy issues when several MPs called him "liar" and one even chanted "death to the liar."

It was revealed at the same meeting that 200 members of parliament have tabled a motion to question President Hassan Rouhani.

An angry Zarif told the hardliner lawmakers with a forced smile that Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei had once called him "honest" and "brave."

He characterized the antagonistic comments as insult and said: "If I lied, the Supreme Leader heard it and said Zarif is honest, and if I said the truth, he heard that too and said Zarif was brave."

This was the second confrontation between the Majles and a Rouhani administration cabinet minister. Two weeks ago, members of parliament and its speaker Baqer Qalibaf lashed out at Communication and Information Technology Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi criticizing his performance.

In this tweet by pro-Zarif politician Mostafa Tajzadeh the heckling scene at the parliament can be seen.

Meanwhile, some of the MPs wrote on Twitter that the Majles is planning to grill Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh when he appears before the Majles to defend the contracts he has signed with other countries including a controversial one with Turkmenistan which is said to have led to the payment of hefty penalties by the Oil Ministry although Zanganeh has insisted there was no penalty.

One of the main points Zarif had to explain was about a 25-year long contract between Iran and China the Rouhani administration approved recently without consulting the parliament.

Zarif once again tried to involve Khamenei in the matter in order to silence the MPs. He said the contract was first discussed during a meeting between Khamenei and the visiting Chinese President in 2015.

He explained that "one of the most significant provisions of the contract is returning Iran to the Silk Road Project." Foreign observers have said the project nicknamed by the Chines as One Belt, One Road (OBOR) was a colonial project.

A few days earlier, former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad harshly criticized the secret nature of what the government has been pushing as a strategic partnership with China. Ahmadinejad has quite a few allies in the parliament.

Zarif who is in charge of finalizing the contract with China based on an order by President Hassan Rouhani, said in the secretive jargon of Islamic Republic officials that the Chinese government has responded to Iran's proposal, adding that "We shall declare it when the contract is finalized."

The Iranian administration approved the draft for the "25-year comprehensive plan for the Cino-Iranian cooperation," which has been criticized by many Iranians including members of the parliament and Ahmadinejad who said any contract concluded with a foreign country behind the nation's back will be void and unacceptable.

Zarif was also heckled for Iran’s diplomacy in the nuclear deal, since most members of parliament are hardliners long opposed to the agreement. But the bulk of the criticism revolved around the Chinese issue.

In the Sunday meeting at the Majles, the chairman of the parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Committee Mojtaba Zolnouri stressed that contrary to Khamenei's orders, Zarif was not after good relations with China and that for a long time Iran did not even have an ambassador in China.

He told Zarif, "If you did not abandon relations with China in the past, Iranians would not have to undergo this much of economic pressures."

During the meeting some lawmakers called on President Rouhani to be accountable to the legislature and answer questions. One MP, Mohammad Ali Naqdali went even as far as saying, "the Majles should start the process for impeaching Rouhani."

At the same meeting, Tehran MP Ali Khezrian said that 200 members of parliament have tabled a motion to question the President. Only 175 signatures are enough to summon the President to the Majles.

The devaluation of Iran’s currency, the chaos in the housing and automobile markets, a high inflation rate and government policies regarding the nuclear program and compensating businesses that incurred losses due to the coronavirus pandemic are among the issues lawmakers are planning to question Rouhani about.

Several Iran analysts in Iran and abroad have said that Khamenei might allow the questioning and impeachment of Rouhani, but he would stop the MPs before they call for the embattled President's ouster as he will complete his second term and will be out of office in less than a year.