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War Of Words Between Rouhani And Iran Hardliners Reaches Fever Pitch

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani walks past a picture of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as he arrives to a press conference at the presidency compound in Tehran, Iran, Monday, April, 10, 2017.

Hardliners in Iran have ratcheted up their attacks on the embattled President Hassan Rouhani for his recent comment threatening to name the "one who has shut down the country."

In his latest speech at a cabinet meeting last Wednesday in Tehran, Rouhani had complained in the harshest tone he has ever used against his critics and those who "obstruct" his administration's efforts to run the country.

Retaliating, the conservative allies of the Islamic Republic Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei have blamed Rouhani for being a monarch with a soft underbelly, ready to surrender the country to "foreign enemies."

The chairman of parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, Mojtaba Zonnouri (Zolnouri), has gone even further, comparing Rouhani to a "magician" who has "shown a key to his audience", while "locking-up" the whole country. Key was a symbol of Rouhani’s election campaign.

Speaking to the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) affiliated Fars news agency on Saturday, October 26, the mid-ranking cleric Zonnouri did not hesitate to accuse Rouhani of "agitating public opinion," and expressing views against the country's constitution.

"These gentlemen (Rouhani and VP Es’haq Jahangiri) should be accountable for their remarks," Zonnouri asserted.

Earlier, Jahangiri had maintained that in a session attended by the heads of the country's three branches of power, the bills related to the international conventions against money laundering and terrorism, demanded by international watchdog, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

But on Saturday, Rouhani’s spokesman repeated the accusation that hardliners are bent on “shutting down the economy”. Another Rouhani supporter said some forces “want to topple the president”.

Furthermore Rouhani has accused the hardliner Judiciary of holding "show-off" trials against people suspected of financial corruption to achieve its political ends to use it later in the next general election, in February.

"There are people who are allergic to FATF, and as soon as they hear the word, their bodies react and turn red," Rouhani derided his conservative critics.

Deploring Rouhani's comments, Zonnouri fired back by saying that the president should not presume that being the head of the executive branch, he has the power and authority to use "dictatorial literature" to scare the other branches.

So far, Khamenei himself is silent; a typical behavior by him when his allies take up a cause or start a crusade against someone.

President Hassan Rouhani presented the proposal to meet FATF's demands to the parliament in November 2017. Supporters of the legislation, known collectively as the Palermo Bills in Iran, say joining the FATF and other international agreements on financial transparency, and combating money laundering, and terrorism-financing would reduce international pressure on Iran's already deteriorating economy.

The opponents of the bills, mainly Friday Prayer leaders, IRGC top commanders, and other conservative allies of Khamenei, have repeatedly argued that passing the bills will threaten Iran's security. In contrast, analysts say the real fear in circles loyal to Khamenei is that adhering to rules for financial transparency would prevent Tehran from funding the Lebanese Hezbollah and Palestinian militant groups.

But there are also the financial interests of powerful regime officials and their businesses that have so far functioned in an environment free of international standards.

Nonetheless, Zonnouri accused the proponents of the Palermo Bills of "setting up the field" for the U.S. President Donald Trump's "maneuvering," and making it easier for him to exert pressure on the people of Iran.

"The proponents of the bills intend to reveal all secret paths we use (to financially assist HAMAS and Hezbollah, and skip the U.S. sanctions imposed on Iran," Zonnouri asserted.

The FATF has set its last deadline next February for Iran to pass financial reforms.

Iran and North Korea are the only countries that have not yet ratified the FATF.