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Rouhani Heckled During Speech, Shoots Back At Iran's Hardliners

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was heckled during a speech in Yazd, Iran. November 10, 2019

Demonstrators protesting President Hassan Rouhani’s policies heckled Iran's president during a speech in the city of Yazd in central Iran on Sunday November 10.

Rouhani said "the voice of these young men is not the voice of the people," and called on his supporters "not to allow America's demands be voiced by these individuals."

Although Rouhani said protestors were "a few individuals," the Iranian state TV's rolling new network IRINN showed a relatively large group of people chanting slogans against Rouhani and his administration.

According to pro-administration daily newspaper Arman-e Melli, last week a group of clerical students in Qom had also staged a gathering chanting slogans against Rouhani. The newspaper described the clerics in Qom as "radicals."

Tensions between Rouhani and Iran's hardliners have been on the rise since the U.S. pulled out of the 2015 nuclear agreement and have further escalated as parliamentary elections in February approach.

During his speech in Yazd which was frequently interrupted by slogans chanted from among the crowd, Rouhani referred to a few financial corruption cases and called on his oil minister and the governor of Iran's Central Bank to provide explanations on those cases.

In this video clip from his speech, Rouhani is demanding an explanation from the hardliner Judiciary about a large oil corruption case.

Meanwhile, Rouhani challenged the Judiciary controlled by the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei not to be complacent with its campaign against small corruption cases and begin to deal with bigger cases. He said: "The Judiciary is tackling corruption cases involving millions and billions of rials, but it should also explain the way it deals with cases involving billions of dollars."

The U.S. dollar is traded in Tehran for up to 120.000 rials at Tehran’s open market. The official government rate is 4,2000 rials against the dollar.

Criticizing Iran's conservative-dominated Judiciary, Rouhani said: "The people will not be deceived by taking a few individuals to the court and making a fuss about them." He threatened that if the Judiciary fails to reveal bigger corruption cases, he would talk about them during visits to various provinces.

Rouhani further called on the Judiciary to explain a $947 million corruption case. "An institution has got $947 million and it is now not willing to return it. All institutions that have got more than $700 million should be accountable and explain their cases." However, Rouhani did not name any particular entity.

He also said that the Oil Minister should explain a case about $2 billion in oil money "and the Central bank governor should explain about the $2 billion he says was devoured by America." Again Rouhani did not elaborate further on these cases.

Rouhani was speaking in codes about the case of billionaire Babak Zanjani who sold Iran's oil on behalf of the government under the Ahmadinejad administration by circumventing U.S. sanctions, and has been convicted to death but is said to have refused to return the government's money. Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh has recently said that Zanjani has returned only $600 million of the $2.1 billion he owed to the government.

He said the Judiciary was mandated a few years ago to investigate that case quickly, but this has not been done yet. He added: "After several years, it is not clear what happened to the man that was sentenced to death. Why those involved in the case do not explain the matter?"

The other $2 billion is about the Central Bank assets in the United States the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled can be used to compensate the victims of Iran's alleged terror attacks abroad. The Rouhani administration says the Ahmadinejad administration has failed to return the assets to Iran.

Meanwhile, as a "good news" Rouhani said that a newly discovered oil field in Khuzestan Province has a reserve of 53 billion barrels and this shows that "Iran is a rich country."

Without presenting any evidence, Rouhani also said Iran's economic situation has been improving every month and this "has disappointed America."

All indications, including estimates by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund show a deep recession in Iran in 2019.