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Iran’s Top Officials Promise Cohesion Amid A Volatile Situation

(From L to R) Head of Iran's Judiciary Sadeq Larijani, President Hassan Rouhani and Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani.

Following a Mach 26 meeting, the top officials of Iranian government’s executive, legislative and judiciary branches have stressed that the need for national cohesion and attending to the nation’s financial problems should be on top of their agenda.

This was the first joint meeting between President Hasan Rouhani, Majles Speaker Ali Larijani and Judiciary Chief Sadeq Amoli Larijani in the new Iranian year that started March 21.

Iranian agencies quoted Rouhani as saying at the end of the meeting, which was held at his office in Tehran, that the three officials concurred on the need for cohesion.

They have always expressed a desire to bring about unity among state officials, but recurrent differences between Rouhani and Amoli Larijani over political and religious matters have hindered such a cohesion.

According to Rouhani, the three officials have emphasized the need to solve the nation’s financial problems, adding that his administration considers job creation and anti-poverty measures on top of its agenda in the new year.

Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) quoted Rouhani as saying that the three officials agreed on “supporting domestic products,” a motto chosen for the year by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, through promoting the quality of domestic products and cracking down on smuggling of goods.

Similar mottos and slogans were offered at the beginning of previous years and officials vowed to work hard to realize often far-fetched economic objectives, but in the absence of proper delivery, the promises added to the extent of expectations and frustration on the part of the people.

US-based economist Bahman Dadkhah said in an interview with Radio Farda that supporting domestic products requires respect for people’s freedom to choose, and creating a competitive production market, however, it is always likely that smugglers linked to the government import goods from countries such as China with their petrodollars.

Another economist, Ahmad Alavi told Radio Farda that domestic production cannot be boosted with slogans. Governments in Iran have always promised progress through their slogans but hardly stood by their promises, he said.

The joint meeting by the heads of the three powers took place two months after major protests that shook Iran in December 2017 and January 2018.

During the past year, unpaid workers and teachers also staged many protests, walk outs and strikes. Citizens who lost their savings in bankrupt financial institutions also continued to demand redress from the government almost every day in major cities.

The most widespread demonstrations started in late December in protest to financial problems, but they soon turned into political demonstrations against state officials including Khamenei.

Violent suppression of demonstrations left at least 25 dead, while three of those arrested committed suicide in jail according to prison officials. However, human rights watchdogs dismissed claims about suicide and have said that the number of those killed in the streets was higher.

Rouhani said in early March that his administration was not the only target of the protests, adding that the government has heard the protesters’ message, but others have attempted to “jam” their voice.

He was probably referring to Khamenei and other hardliners who said foreigners were behind the unrest.

Meanwhile, Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli warned earlier that the dissatisfaction leading to the protests in the winter has not been addressed, and that “it could reignite easily.”

Khamenei in his New Year speech in Mashad described the protests as “a bitter event”.

Elsewhere in the speech, he evaluated the Islamic Republic’s track record in the areas of economy and civil liberties in the past four decades as “acceptable.”

Meanwhile, former ultra-conservative President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad recently published several of his letters to Khamenei and in one of them reminded him that “No trace of civil liberties has remained in the country after four decades” of rule by Islamic Republic.