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Rouhani Denies Government Inefficiency Despite Rampant Problems 

Iran-- President Hassan Rouhani (right) sitting close to Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, May 14, 2019.
Iran-- President Hassan Rouhani (right) sitting close to Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, May 14, 2019.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has dismissed critics' claims about his administration's inefficiency as "unfair."

Speaking in the northern Khorasan Province town of Shirvan on July 14, Rouhani said that "any claim about Iran's Islamic system and the current administration being inefficient would be both incorrect and unfair."

Rouhani did not mention any particular person who had said so, but many Iranian and foreign critics have accused his administration of being responsible for a large part of Iran's economic and political problems.

Rouhani himself has always ruled out criticism and blamed U.S. sanctions for Iran's problems, but Iran faced problems even between 2015 and 2018, when sanctions were lifted and the administration received billions of dollars in previously frozen assets.

Critics blame the administration for wasting resources, but most of the wastage was made without the administration's intervention, as it did not have any say in spending billions of dollars on the wars in Syria and Yemen. Khamenei and his favorite IRGC commanders spent the nation's wealth on proxy wars.

They have also given millions of dollars to organizations such as Lebanese Hezballah and Hamas in the Palestinian territories. Most countries have designated these entities as terrorists.

Nevertheless, almost every analysis of Iran's numerous economic problems also mentions mismanagement and corruption in the Rouhani administration.

As an example, when foreign economic pressures affected the forex market, the Rouhani administration gave dollars at preferential rates up to four times cheaper than market rates to insiders to import essential commodities. According to critics, many of the insiders who received the cheap dollars never returned the profits or even the original sums.

When the Iranian Parliament disclosed that Rouhani's industry minister, Mohammad Shariatmadari, was involved in illicit deals that gave state money to profiteers, Rouhani removed Shariatmadari from his post but immediately appointed him labor minister days before the parliament was going to impeach him. A close relative of Shariatmadari is still on trial for pocketing billions of dollars, but there is no mention of Shariatmadari or the futile move by the parliament.

In another development, the mishandling of funds was at the heart of a major corruption case involving petrochemical companies linked to regime insiders.

Rouhani admitted part of the problem on July 14 by saying, "We have problems in this country and are living under difficult conditions, but we shall overcome the problems." However, he did not elaborate on the nature of those problems.

Rouhani claimed that after the intensification of U.S. economic pressure on Iran some 14 months ago, Iran has paid some of its foreign debts and in the meantime unemployment figures have not increased.

Previously, even some government officials had talked about the administration's inefficiency. Even Khamenei, when talking about Iran's economic problems, also mentioned corruption and mismanagement by government officials as part of the reasons for the problems.

In May, when Rouhani demanded more executive power, numerous articles in Iran's newspapers reminded him that he already had the power but was not using it efficiently.

Meanwhile, last February, on the 40th anniversary of the 1979 revolution in Iran, the U.S. State Department reminded in a series of tweets with the hashtag "40 years of defeat" that the Iranian government was corrupt in the absence of free media and journalists are in jail and access to the internet is limited as a result of the government's suppressive policies.

Disillusionment about the administration's efficiency is so widespread that it has even reached Rouhani's supporters.

On July 14, Iranian commentator Sadeq Zibakalam, who supported Rouhani in his election campaigns, asked the country's boastful Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli to mention just one positive change that has taken place in Iran as a result of the 24 million votes Iranians cast for Rouhani.

A defiant Rouhani said, "Those who in the White House claim they can defeat the Iranian economy should know that what they say is not right."

Although there is no doubt that U.S. sanctions have led to the devaluation of the Iranian currency and made it difficult for Iran to export oil and repatriate oil revenues, even insiders as well as people on the street know that the Rouhani administration is either unwilling or unable to make life easier for ordinary Iranians.

Meanwhile, many protesters during the massive demonstrations in early 2018 have also blamed the government's inefficiency and its officials' corruption for the country's economic woes.