Iranian Parliament Wants to Question Rouhani About Collapsing Economy

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani listens to a question during a press conference in New York on September 20, 2017, on the sideline of the 72nd Session of the United Nations General assembly

The Iranian parliament announced on Wednesday that it wants to question President Hassan Rouhani about the shaky economy and rapidly devaluing currency.

The announcement said the parliament summoned Rouhani to appear before a special session within a month, without setting an exact date.

The Associated Press notes Labor Minister Ali Rabiei managed to keep his job after facing tough questions from the Iranian parliament in March over the 12.5 percent national unemployment rate. It appears Rabiei will soon return to answer more questions as the rial plunges and the economy struggles.

The Jerusalem Post observed that Rouhani has never been summoned by the Iranian parliament before. The summons may have been prompted in part by Rouhani canceling interviews with the media as the economy worsened. A few previous attempts were made to summon him for questioning on various issues, but his administration was always able to persuade lawmakers to drop their demands.

In this case, at least 80 members of parliament submitted questions for him to answer. According to the Jerusalem Post, a few who buckled under pressure from Rouhani’s allies were persuaded to resubmit their questions.

The subtext here is that Iranian moderates are wondering how the economy should be in such horrible shape after all that money flowed in from U.S. President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal. The obvious answer is that much of the money was diverted to the Iranian military and its adventures in places like Syria and Yemen.

Hardliners, on the other hand, think the Iranian military and theocracy are not powerful enough and see an opportunity to weaken the secular government. The Associated Press noted that Iran’s parliament seems fairly united behind wanting new blood in Rouhani’s economic team, with 200 of 290 members signing a letter urging him to make changes.

The hardliners want to go even further and replace the civilian government with military leadership from the theocratic Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Some of Rouhani’s critics think the benefits of the nuclear deal were always oversold, while others blame him for taking a confrontational stance against the United States that led the Trump administration to withdraw from the deal and reimpose sanctions.

Protests erupted in the streets of Iran again this week as the economy took another turn for the worse. The demonstrations explicitly called for Tehran to stop frittering away the nation’s resources on foreign wars. Allegations of widespread corruption at the highest levels have been made as well.

At least 29 arrests have been made in the latest wave of protests, with some possibly facing the death penalty, which renewed allegations of human-rights violations by the increasingly nervous Iranian regime.


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