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Two More Ministers To Be Impeached As Iran Faces Crisis

IRAN -- Iranian lawmakers vote during an impeachment session of Iranian Labor Minister Ali Rabiei (unseen) at the Iranian Parliament in Tehran, August 8, 2018

The Iranian Parliament announced its plan to impeach Education Minister Mohammad Bathai within the next 10 days, the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) reported on August 29.

The motion to impeach Bathai was tabled by 20 members of the parliament, the report said.

The parliament, which has impeached and dismissed President Hassan Rouhani's labor and economic ministers over the past three weeks, is also examining another motion to impeach Industry, Mining, and Trade Minister Mohammad Shariatmadari.

The motion to impeach Shariatmadari has been signed by 60 members of the parliament, who have accused him of failing in 17 areas including the failure to control the market that eventually led to a dramatic rise in commodity prices.

The motion also accuses Shariatmadari of wasting billions of dollars by allocating subsidized foreign currencies to profiteering individuals or companies who did not import anything or imported goods at low-rate foreign currencies and sold them on the Iranian market at higher prices.

A large part of the criticism directed at the government during Iran's most serious foreign currency crisis in July was reportedly about the mishandling of funds by the Industry, Mining, and Trade Ministry.

According to Mehr news agency, the motion to impeach Shariatmadari is being reviewed by the Industry and Mining Committee, but government critics outside Iran say the parliament is hesitant to impeach Shariatmadari, a former deputy intelligence minister who is believed to hold considerable sway in the Iranian intelligence community.

In Shariatmadari's case, if at least 10 signatories of the motion insist on impeaching him after the committee’s review, the parliament will order him to appear for impeachment.

In recent months, particularly since the U.S. pull-out from the nuclear deal with Iran in May adversely affected the country’s ailing economy, the parliament has redoubled its criticism of the Rouhani administration's handling of the crisis.

Members of parliament as well as other critics and the media called on Rouhani to change his economic team and correct his economic policy. However, Rouhani's answer was minimal as he changed the governor of the Central Bank at the peak of Iran's worst foreign currency crisis.

During the past three weeks, the parliament impeached and dismissed two of Rouhani's ministers, both from his economic team, and questioned Rouhani on five areas of his economic policy on August 28.

Rouhani, who denied his policy had been the cause of the country's economic problems, failed to convince MPs with his answers to four of the five questions.

Although the media and Iranians on social media have welcomed the impeachments, economic analysts maintain that changing individuals in key economic positions will not necessarily solve Iran's problems. They say the economic crisis will continue and could even worsen so long as there is no change in fundamental economic policy.

Most analysts and critics agree that Iran's economic problems are largely the outcome of essential structural flaws in its political system, which allows the armed forces, particularly the IRGC, to meddle in economic affairs. The companies under the supervision of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, which operate without paying taxes or undergoing other checks and balances, also contribute to the problem.

A larger part of Iran's economic woes is the outcome of its failing foreign policy and the insistence by its hard-line rulers on their high-cost regional ambitions.