Accessibility links

Breaking News

Former Minister Says Rouhani 'Has No Strategic Vision'

Iran-Tehran-Abbas Akhoundi- Akhoondi-Iranian Roads and Urban Development Minister / عباس آخوندی
Iran-Tehran-Abbas Akhoundi- Akhoondi-Iranian Roads and Urban Development Minister / عباس آخوندی

Former Roads and Housing Minister Abbas Akhoundi, who resigned last week, has lashed out at President Hassan Rouhani's policies, particularly in the area of economy, and attributed the country's economic crisis to the Rouhani administration's "strategic mistakes".

In an interview with Iran's leading economic daily newspaper Donyaye Eqtesad (Economy World) on Thursday October 25, Akhoundi accused Rouhani of "not having any strategic vision to solve the structural problems in Iran's economy," and charged that Rouhani has taken "no outstanding measures" to tackle the problems.

Akhoundi who has held key positions in Iran for decades, did not say what he did to help or to highlight the problems when serving as cabinet minister. Also, it is not known whether he knew about the structural flaw in the Islamic Republic's system during the years he has worked as roads and housing minister under Rouhani and former President Rafsanjani.

Almost all independent Iranian economists and analysts say that the Islamic Republic has created an unworkable political-economic system, which is based on dolling out favors, without much care about the well-being of the economy or the legitimacy of the political system. As a result, domestic order is maintained by fear and suppression.

Born in 1957 in Iraq to a clerical family, Akhoundi migrated to Iran as an adolescent, studied in high schools in Qom and Tehran and continued his education in civil engineering in Tehran and London. He is married to influential cleric Ali Akbar Nateq Nouri's wife's sister and was his deputy when Nuri was Iran's interior minister in the 1980s.

The Iranian Parliament (Majles) impeached Akhoundi three times during the past five years, but ultimately gave him the vote of confidence every time. The Majles was reportedly planning his fourth impeachment just before his resignation.

Last week Akhoundi said he resigned from his post as cabinet minister as he thought it was "unethical" to work with the Rouhani administration because the way the administration dealt with U.S. sanctions "was against the law, did not respect people's right to ownership and undermined market economy and competitiveness."

He told Donyaye Eqtesad that "recent bottlenecks in the forex market were caused by the administration's confusion." Akhoundi further charged that the Rouhani administration "lacks enough knowledge of international economy and its only relative success was in the area of controlling inflation.

Akhoundi also questioned Rouhani's foreign policy and his understanding of international developments, charging that "Rouhani's inaction brought about a sense of uncertainty in the society."

"Instead of standing next to Europe, which was [itself] threatened by US and was willing to support us for its own interests, we started to haggle," he said, referring to Iran's equivocal answer to EU's offer of help after US pulled out of the nuclear deal with Iran in May. "This was a strategic mistake that signalled a sense of uncertainty to the society," Akhoundi added.

He then criticized the administration's domestic policy, saying that it was not able to bridge the gaps and cracks created in the Iranian society following the disputed presidential elections in 2009, and could not move forward even after the initial success in winning the nuclear deal with the West.

He also pointed out that the administration failed to take advantage of the security umbrella provided by the nuclear deal to introduce the economic reforms that Iran needed.

Akhoundi further charged that Rouhani undermined the law and imposed artificial rates of exchange whenever he faced a hurdle. He accused the government of not believing in market economy.

This comes while Rouhani's conservative critics have always accused him of believing in a liberal market economy.

It is a known political phenomenon in Iran that individuals who leave positions of power for any reason, soon turn into opposition and portray themselves as reform-minded politicians. However, Rouhani's critics usually did characterize Akhoundi as a "reformist" as the label is usually loosely applied to most Iranian moderate conservative figures.