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Khamenei Reportedly Rejected Resignation Of VP Heading 'Economic Resistance'

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei meeting with President Hassan Rouhani's cabinet on Saturday August 26, 2017. Jahangiri sitting next to Rouhani.

A member of the Iranian reformist Supreme Council for Policymaking says Vice President Es'haq Jahangiri continues to serve in his post after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei rejected his resignation.

Reports about Jahangiri's resignation made headlines in recent months, but Rouhani's administration has denied it.

Ali Soufi, who was minister during the presidency of Mohammad Khatami (2001-2005), said, "Since Jahangiri is the head of the Economic Resistance Headquarters, he had to obtain the supreme leader's permission to resign as vice president.” But the reformist insider does not say when the resignation was submitted.

Khamenei presented the "general policies of economic resistance" at the beginning of President Hassan Rouhani's first term in 2013, and since then Jahangiri has served as head of the office responsible for implementing his guidelines.

"In a letter to Khamenei, Jahangiri has insisted that the economic resistance policy is not progressing and that he cannot be useful," Soufi was quoted as saying by the Tasnim news agency, which is run by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

According to Soufi, the main reason for Jahangiri's resignation was his disagreement with Rouhani's chief of staff, Mahmoud Vaezi.

In October 2018, he complained about his lack of power within the administration, and to make a point Jahangiri said that he even lacked the authority to hire or fire his own secretary.

The comment triggered a storm on Iran's political scene, raising the question of what forced Jahangiri to speak out. According to reformist daily Arman, Jahangiri is rarely consulted on crucial decisions.

Many political activists, including Tehran reformist MP Elias Hazrati, had predicted the VP was only one step away from resignation.

Since Rouhani's second term began in 2017, there have been speculations of a rift between Jahangiri and senior cabinet members, as well as Vaezi and the head of the Planning and Budget organization, Mohammad Baqer Nobakht.

The track records of the three indicate that Nobakht has the upper hand in the rivalry, which has its roots deep in the history of Iran's two major centrist political parties, the Executives of Construction Party (which Jahangiri comes from) and the Moderation and Development Party, which is Vaezi and Nobakht's power base.

While the muscle flexing in the cabinet continues, Soufi says it is "definitely in Jahangiri’s interest" to leave his job.

"It is harmful to his credibility for him to remain in Rouhani's administration," Soufi said. "I wonder if Jahangiri's popularity would remain intact at the end of Rouhani's second term in 2021."

Referring to unidentified "polls" and "assessments", Soufi maintained that the level of Rouhani's popularity is "shallow" and "below 10 percent."

Jahangiri, 61, who ran against Rouhani in 2013 but left the race later in his favor, is believed to be the reformists' candidate for the 2021 presidential election.

In recent months, following the devaluation of Iran's currency and deepening economic crisis, the reformists' criticism of Rouhani and his performance has gained momentum.

Earlier this month, former president Khatami, widely considered the leader of reformists, also expressed his disappointment with Rouhani and his failure to implement reforms.

In a meeting with members of the reformists' faction in parliament Khatami warned that in the absence of reforms it will be difficult to convince people to vote in the next election.

"Today, I am challenged by people who say, ‘You dragged us to the ballot boxes, but show us one single case of moving toward real reform.’ Has the judiciary been improved or can a healthy private sector compete in the economic field?" Khatami said.

The former president's concerns reflect the impact of the late December 2017-early January 2018 protests that broke out in Iran's second largest city, Mashhad, and soon spread to 100 more towns.

One of the main slogans of protesters was against Iran being dominated by the two establishment factions.

"Reformists, Principlists! Your time is over!" chanted millions of demonstrators nationwide.