President Hassan Rouhani has tried to defend himself against accusations of not being well-informed about crucial developments that impact the country in significant ways.
During the past week, Iranian politicians as well as members of the public have criticized him for not being aware why a Ukrainian airliner crashed near Tehran on January 8.
Rouhani said Tuesday on national TV that he was kept in the dark for three days as he was not informed of the missile attack.
Rouhani had also been criticized for saying that he heard about an unusual gas price hike that caused major protests in Iran in November after he watched the state TV news the day after.
According to Mizan News, speaking at a banking-related gathering in Tehran on January 16, Rouhani said, "As the official in charge of the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), I cannot talk about everything, but I keep monitoring events on a daily basis as the difference between war and peace is just one bullet," mindless of the fact that he had not been aware of missiles that bringing down the airliner in flames.
Following the remark, which was also tweeted on the Rouhani administration official Twitter page, many social media users reminded Rouhani of his own words about not being well-informed of the affairs of the state.
"There is a division of labor based on the Constitutional Law which we need to abide by. But we are monitoring the situation as the distance between war and peace is just a single shot," Rouhani said.
He made the remark on the same day that Ali Najafi Khoshroudi, a member of the Iranian Parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Committee criticized him for not being informed about the plane crash. "According to the law, the SNSC should be aware of matters like that and make decisions about them," He said.
After several days of denials in spite of the views expressed by international experts and foreign leaders the IRGC on January 11 acknowledged its responsibility in "inadvertently" downing the airliner in a missile attack that killed 176 passengers and crew members on January 8.
Initially, Rouhani administration officials described the idea of a missile attack on the civilian airliner as "psychological warfare by the enemies." One of Rouhani's advisers even threatened Iranian journalists not to speak about this as a possibility.
Tehran MP Parvaneh Salahsouri said in the parliament, "Rouhani says he did not know about the missile attack. Either he is powerless and wishes to deny his responsibility, or decisions are made somewhere else where all the power is. This is not a good game to play with the people."
Meanwhile, in his remarks on Thursday Rouhani attributed the country's serious economic problems to Iran's foreign relations. "When foreign relations are ruined, the people's hardships worsen every day, international sanctions exert pressure and when we have problems in selling our oil, the country's economy cannot remain unshaken."
Nevertheless, he said "I knew we are facing major economic problems from the very beginning during my election campaigns. I knew about the situation of inflation, recession and investment, and I knew about our relations with the world."
However, Rouhani did not say why he thought he would be able to change the situation in the interest of the people.
Consecutive protests since November have shaken Iran to the core and demonstrators who are becoming more impatient demand Supreme Leader Aki Khamenei's resignation by chanting the sharpest slogans ever heard in Iran.
Vice-President Es'haq Jahangiri said on Thursday that as a result of recent developments "there has been a decline in the people's trust in the government and all of us should accept our responsibilities and try to make up for the errors and improve the situation."
Meanwhile, Rouhani also said on Thursday that Iran is now enriching more uranium than it did before the 2015 deal with the West. "Pressures on Iran have been mounting but we will continue to make progress," he said. This comes while the EU-3 have just triggered a mechanism that would return UN and European sanctions against Iran as Tehran has dramatically reduced its obligations under the nuclear deal.
In another development, Rouhani on Wednesday criticized hardliner dominated Guardian Council for disqualifying nearly all of the reform minded and moderate conservative candidates for the upcoming parliamentary elections. "All of those whose qualifications are endorsed by Guardian Council come from the same faction: the hardliners," Rouhani charged.
However, the spokesman for the Guardian Council alluded without naming anyone that Rouhani was angry because people close to him have been disqualified. Rouhani's own son-in-law is one of the disqualified candidates. But many reformists, even some of the incumbent lawmakers did not get through the net. Some of the reformists have called on the Guardian Council to reconsider their case.
Many observers including reformist analysts believe Iran's hardliners are more or less certain about a landslide victory that would practically push relatively moderate politicians such as Rouhani out of power for many years if not forever.