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Rouhani Introduces 4 New Ministers Ahead of Hard-Hitting Sanctions

IRAN -- Iranian President Hassan Rohani and his cabinet meet the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (center), in Tehran, August 29, 2018

President Hassan Rouhani nominated the new ministers of economy, industry, roads and labor in a letter to the Iranian Parliament on October 21.

Rouhani named Farhad Dejpasand for the post of economy minister and Mohammad Shariatmadari for the position of labor minister, Mohammad Eslami for the Road Ministry and Reza Rahmani for the Idustry Ministry.

The changes in Rouhani's cabinet take place only two weeks before Iran faces the toughest economic sanctions that target its oil exports and international banking operations.

Rouhani had refused to reshuffle his cabinet for more than a year, while his critics, as well as many members of the parliament, kept calling on him to change his economic team in the cabinet in a bid to solve the country's economic crisis.

The parliament dismissed the economy and labor ministers last month, and Rouhani accepted the resignation of the ministers of industry and roads on October 20 after they wrote several letters offering to step down.

While three of the new nominees are low-key officials known to the press if not to the public, the new nominee for the Labor Ministry, Mohammad Shariatmadari, has been Rouhani's industry minister until October 20 and his performance was widely criticized by the parliament, the press, and the public.

In fact, Shariatmadari is likely to have resigned his post as industry minister because over 70 MPs have called for his impeachment. He refused to report to the parliament on October 9 to respond to MPs' questions about his problematic performance.

Iran-- President Hassan Rouhani (left) is speaking with minister of industry, Mohammad Shariatmadari, in the cabinet session, June 27, 2018.
Iran-- President Hassan Rouhani (left) is speaking with minister of industry, Mohammad Shariatmadari, in the cabinet session, June 27, 2018.

Shariatmadari needs to be vetted by the parliament for his new post. Although he won the highest number of votes of confidence in 2017 as industry minister, there is no guarantee that this would happen again as there have been several reports about major corruption cases linked to his ministry in the summer of 2018.

Farhad Dejpasand, the nominee for the post of minister of economy and finance, is an assistant professor at Tehran's Shahid Beheshti University. He is currently working as head of the research center at the plan and budget organization. He has also served as a deputy to the chairman of Iran's planning and budget organization.

Dejpasand has served as caretaker economy minister after the former minister's impeachment last month.

The nominee for the post of roads minister, Mohammad Eslami, studied civil engineering in the United States and has worked on several projects for military and civilian organizations in Iran as well as being a board member of companies affiliated with the office of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. His performance has been praised repeatedly by Khamenei, and his top commanders, ISNA reported.

Rahmani, the nominee for the post of industry minister, has already served for a month as the caretaker minister. According to IRNA, he is a former deputy industry minister and has served as the chairman of the board of directors of the Iranian Copper Industries.

Rahmani has been a member of the parliament for 12 years and chaired the Industry and Mining Committee.

The change in the cabinet, while covering four of the key economic ministries, could be too late to save Iran's failing economy, as the country is facing its worst economic recession and is facing major foreign policy and economic problems.

On November 4, the United States is to re-introduce hard-hitting sanctions on Iran's oil exports and international banking operations. The new ministers of economy (and finance) and industry (and mining and trade), the officials to make key decisions on how to confront the impact of sanctions would have to spend a lot of time to restructure the ministries and review policies before they could take any effective practical measure. That is if they win the parliament's vote of confidence.