Tag Archives: Rouhani

Iran – Former vice-president Baghaei arrested

In this photo taken on Sunday, Sept. 12, 2010, then Vice President Hamid Baghaei, second right, and then President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visit the National Museum in Tehran, Iran. Iranian authorities on Monday, June 8, 2015, arrested Baghaei, who served under Ahmadinejad, in the second such detention of a senior official from the hard-line former leader’s administration, the official IRNA news agency reported. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

On June 8th, the former vice-president in charge of executive affairs, Hamid Baghaei, was detained for questioning on undisclosed charges, but it is believed that he is suspected to be linked to an embezzlement scandal the Iranian judiciary system has been investigating since last year. This is part of a nation-wide effort to punish and prevent money laundering and corruption promoted by Hassan Rouhani’s government. Since when he was elected as president in June 2013, Rouhani has been one of the staunchest critics of the previous administration, led by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (2005-2013), accused of facilitating and being involved in a number of corruption scandals.

Judiciary spokesperson, Gholamhossein Mohseni-Ajai, declared to Fars News Agency that ‘former vice-president Hamid Baghaei had a charge sheet issued against him by the judiciary and the prosecutor summoned him today for questioning’, but no further detail was added. Baghaei’s arrest is the second during this year. In fact, in January the former vice-president Mohammad Reza Rahimi was condemned to 5-year imprisonment and to pay a fine of nearly 10 billion rials, corresponding to 300,000 Euro, in connection with money laundering and an embezzlement scheme worth billions of dollars. Although Mohseni-Ajai did not specify the charges against Baghaei, it is believed that the two arrests are linked, therefore outlining a broader scenario where the very final objective might be the one of putting the former president Ahmadinejad under pressure.

Despite facing fierce opposition from the Supreme Leader, the current administration, the parliament and the security apparatus, Ahmadinejad seems to be willing to come back on the national political scene. Former vice-president Rahimi, a friend to Ahmadinejad, apparently wrote a letter to him after his arrest. The letter was later leaked and it linked Ahmadinejad to the corruption scandal. In May 2014, Iran executed billionaire businessman Mahafarid Amir Khosravi, accused of being at the heart of a state bank scam worth 2.6 billion dollars that started in 2007. Although Ahmadinejad denies any involvement, many believe that during his administration corruption was rife throughout those that controlled the country’s economy. Khosravi’s case was the largest fraud case since the 1979 Revolution.

As vice president, Rahimi faced allegations that he was the head of the ‘Fatemi Street Ring’, a group of government appointees and associates that during Ahmadinejad’s governments engaged in a number of embezzlements and bribe takings. Journalists and MPs have accused Rahimi of blackmailing the board of the National State Insurance Company with reports on the company engaging in financial impropriety, thus forcing the directors to sign off millions of dollars into accounts Rahimi controlled. Because Rahimi was appointed as vice president after Ahmadinejad got re-elected as president in 2009, it is speculated that he had a crucial role in help securing funding to sustain the president’s ascent.

On Sunday, president Hassan Rouhani called for the establishment of a ‘completely secure banking system’ to prevent money laundering as part of his administration’s ongoing anti-corruption campaign. Rouhani also stated that Parliament ‘is expected to speed up passing the money laundering bill.’ Rouhani held a cabinet session on June 7 to promote government transparency, stating that ‘A completely secure banking system for official and legal activities …[that] is extremely insecure for illegal activities must be established so that no one can abuse the banking system for money laundering’. The president urged officials to utilize legal measures to strengthen financial transparency and said that the ‘government and judiciary have to cooperate in this regard and the Parliament is also expected to speed up passing the money laundering bill.’

Currently, in Iran all top political figures are supporting efforts for increasing transparency, communicating to the private sector that the new government is cleaning up the scene to attract more genuinely private investments. Gholam Hossein Shafei, president of the Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Mining, has presented his road map for fighting corruption. His guidelines include: ‘political and structural reforms; serious reforms in management concepts; genuine privatization; growing role for nongovernmental organizations and civil society; growing space for independent media to supervise business and government activities; and the promotion of codes of conduct in the private and public sectors.’

The Supreme Leader seems to have given free hand to Rouhani’s efforts, considering that he effectively control Iran’s judiciary system. He is believed to have played a crucial role in making Rahimi’s arrest to happen, and it is likely that he had a similar relevance also in Baghaei’s current detention. It is no coincidence, in fact, he repeatedly called for transparency. Iran is indeed in the middle of a 20-year plan to decentralise and privatise its economy. Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has repeatedly warned officials against using the transition program as a chance to enrich themselves.

Iran – Conservative Parliament rejects President-nominated Minister of Science

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Yesterday, October 29, the Iranian parliament has rejected the President Rouhani-nominated new Minister of Science and Education, Mahmoud Nili Ahmadabadi, after Reza Faraji-Dana was removed from the same post by the parliament in August.

This is the latest chapter in an on-going battle between the majority conservative factions in parliament and the moderate president Hassan Rouhani. The stakes on high because the deadline for the definitive nuclear deal with the 5 + 1 is approaching and Iranian conservatives do not seem ready to accept that it will be their moderate, reformist enemy who will be remembered as the President who put an end to sanctions and to the decades-long cold war against the United States.

The latest blow to Rouhani came yesterday morning when after almost three hours of debate Nili-Ahmadabadi lost the investiture vote with 160 votes against his nomination and 79 in favour. Nili-Ahmadabadi was nominated by Rouhani last month and was introduced to parliament on October 22. The conservative opponents of Rouhani have accused him of proposing candidates who are friendly to the West or who back ‘sedition’ against the ruling establishment, reviving anti-Green Movement rhetoric.

During the discussion in parliament, MPs questioned Nili-Ahmadabadi over his stance in 2009 during the mass protests against the re-election of President Ahmadinejad. He admitted that he did sign a letter with fellow academics condemning attacks on student protesters inside university campuses. However, he said that ‘none of my colleagues nor I have crossed the red lines set by Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. You will not find a single one of us who overstepped those limits’ and added that ‘all my colleagues believe in the system (of the Islamic republic) and acted within the framework of it’.

AFP reports a Western diplomat in Tehran saying that the post of science minister is so sensitive because Iranian universities were ‘very politically active and difficult to manage.’ The same source also reports the declaration of Ahmad Shirazi, a university professor, who criticised the use of the word ‘sedition’ by conservative and principalist MPs. ‘This question of sedition has become a stick by which fundamentalists and conservatives impose their will,’ he declared. Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel, a conservative MP, declared that the responsibility for the current stalemate falls on the shoulders of the government, which is unable to find a suitable candidate who needs to be able and willing to control university campuses and prevent disorders.

For his part, president Rouhani reacted to the accusations of the MPs by recalling that universities need a peaceful atmosphere to be able to promote themselves as centres of science and research. He said that the ministry has a specific importance, adding ‘we want universities to be aware of political issues but not borrow their slogans from politicians.’

Iran – President Rouhani’s struggle against the conservatives

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The President of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, has recently come under attack from conservative political groups for his moderate style in both cultural politics and nuclear negotiations. The president has however fiercely reacted to such attacks, increasing the level of intra-elite conflict. Rouhani became president of Iran in June 2013, when he was elected thanks to a platform of moderation in international politics and limited domestic reforms. He has been regarded as able to win the support from both conservatives, who dominated Iran’s politics in the last decade, and reformists who, after the 2009 crisis, have been sidelined. As the negotiation over the nuclear issue unfolds, however, fractures and conflicts are coming to the surface.

After the initial and general support the President enjoyed, the government started to be criticised in April, when hardliners voiced ‘deep concern’ that Rouhani may be willing to dismantle Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for relief from sanctions. At the beginning of May, this ‘concern’ gave rise to a broader initiative organised by conservative members of the Parliament and other prominent conservative political figures, who discussed together in a conference titled ‘We are worried’ the reasons why they believe Iran signed a bad deal. The president reacted to these attacks by ironically suggesting that conservatives might be in favor of the continuation of sanctions. Another attack on Rouhani took place during those days, when a documentary about his life was released. The documentary, according to commentators, contained some controversial information and was believed to be aimed at harming Rouhani’s credibility. Produced by a media company believed to operate under the IRGC, which is at odds with Rouhani over economic and cultural policies, the documentary highlighted once again the bitter conflicts that characterise Iranian domestic politics. More recently, further discord was caused by a declaration made by Rouhani during a public speech, when he stated that force should not be used to promote religion or to ‘take people to heaven.’ Conservatives and hardliners responded by accusing the President of overlooking religious values and, thus, the very nature of the Islamic Republic. Rouhani’s declaration followed two events that attracted international attention, namely the arrest of the director and performers of a video posted to YouTube featuring the song ‘Happy’ and criticism of the actress Leila Khatami, who publicly kissed the president of the Cannes Festival. Rouhani questioned the arrests and the riticism against Khatami, but his most forceful reaction was during a speech delivered on May 31st when he mocked his critics and declared that ‘a religious government is a very good thing, but a governmental religion, I don’t know.’

As the atmosphere in Iran is heating up, yesterday a video was leaked online, where the commander of the IRCG said that the return of the reformists during the 2009 presidential elections was a ‘red line’ for the organisation. Many believe this to be the evidence that electoral fraud took place in 2009. Its release will have relevant consequences for the troubled relationship between the government and its conservative counterparts, and might trigger the Supreme Leader, who so far has maintained a relatively lower profile, to enter the disputes.

Iran – President under pressure over cabinet appointments

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The Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, is having a hard time appointing his cabinet. On November 6th, 150 members of the Parliament (Majles) asked him to monitor the actions and decisions undertaken by Reza Faraji Dana, the Minister of Science, Research and Technology. The move against Faraji Dana is motivated by concerns over two of his appointees, the senior advisor Jafar Tofiqi and the deputy minister Mili Monfared, that Parliament members suspect of being involved in the 2009 electoral protests. This request follows the Parliament’s veto on October 27th of one of three proposed ministers, Reza Salehi Amiri, following the allegation that he was connected to some of the members of the 2009 Green Movement.

Since his election as President of the Republic last June, Hassan Rouhani has been struggling to form the cabinet, which needs to obtain a vote of confidence on the part of the Parliament to become operative. The popularly elected president indeed serves as Prime Minister too (the office was suppressed by the 1989 Constitutional reform), and therefore has the duty to nominate the ministers and defend his choice in front of the Parliament.

Despite being highly supportive of the President on issues related to nuclear negotiations and foreign policy, the Parliament is closely watching Rouhani’s moves when it comes to culture, education and freedom of speech. In particular, the Ministry of Science is a crucial position for all policies related to higher education. The Minister not only appoints the Chancellors of Iranian universities all over the country, he also has a significant influence when it comes to deciding university curricula and, crucially, the weight of humanities in them. This is a particularly sensitive policy area in Iran, and conflicts over higher education characterised for president Ahmadinejad’s presidential terms, for he was accused of carrying out a ‘cultural revolution’ and a ‘forced Islamization’ of campuses, social sciences and the humanities, well before and after the electoral crisis in 2009. In stark contrast to such an attitude, Rouhani recently called for ‘de-securitising’ higher education, thus increasing the concerns of the Parliament whose majority is composed of conservative groups and ‘hard-liners’. Rouhani’s moderate political orientation and his closeness to some of the political personalities connected to the Green Movement (nicknamed ‘the sedition’ by hard-liners and conservatives) have indeed been debated and, to some extent, criticised by the Parliament. The Assembly has often ‘warned’ the President not to appoint ‘seditionists’ as Ministers, and the recent conflict over Faraji Dana is a further evidence of the relevance of this debate in the country.

Although the Parliament is fully aligned with the Supreme Leader Khamenei’s support for Rouhani in foreign policy, this might not be the case for domestic and cultural policies, as the members of the legislative assembly have warned Rouhani not to disrupt the trust among the state’s bodies with inappropriate appointments.