Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s relatively “moderate” Labor Minister Ali “Ebad” Rabiei was impeached by 129 to 243 votes on Wednesday, in what appears to be a win for the Islamic Republic’s hardliners as the nation grapples with a deepening economic problems, unemployment and a slew of sanctions Rouhani has been blamed for.
“The economic section of Rouhani’s team is the weakest part of the government,” Mohammad Reza Behzadian, a former head of the chamber of commerce, said according to AFP. “Everyone knows this, but he never changed his direction because they are his allies.”
111 parliamentary members reportedly voted in favor of Rabiei remaining in office.
According to the Associated Press, Critics of Rabiei, who has been in office since 2013, say he failed to properly manage the ministry’s affiliated companies, producing fewer jobs than expected. Unemployment has gone up to at least 12.5 percent in Iran, and the currency hit a second record low last month, surpassing 100,000 rials per one U.S. dollar.
On Monday the United State reimposed the first wave of economic sanctions on Iran, targeting the nation’s automotive sector, gold, and other key metals.
A second set of sanctions are set to hit Iran on November 4. Those sanctions will target Iran’s oil exports. President Donald Trump said that nations that continue to import Iranian oil after the deadline could face sanctions.
On August 5, Iranian authorities detained seven people including a former deputy central bank governor and five foreign exchange dealers for alleged economic crimes.
On May 8, Trump officially withdrew the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), of Iran nuclear deal, which snapped sanctions that were eased under former President Barack Obama back into place.
In an interview with Iran’s state-run Tasnim News agency that was published on Sunday, Majid Takht Ravanchi, deputy director for political affairs at Iran’s presidential office, called for the European Union to take immediate action against U.S. sanctions.
“We would not hold negotiations for (another round of) negotiations, not with Europeans and not with any other side,” Ravanchi reportedly said. “We want our negotiations to be purposeful and fruitful.”
President Trump has stated that he is ready and willing to meet with President Rouhani with “no preconditions.”
After rejecting the meeting invite, Rouhani issued a challenge to Trump on Monday, saying the Islamic Republic would welcome talks with the United States “right now.”
“I don’t have preconditions,” Rouhani said in an interview aired on Iran’s state-run television. “If the US government is willing, let’s start right now. If there is sincerity, Iran has always welcomed dialogue and negotiations.”
Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton dismissed Rouhani’s statement as possible “propaganda” in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper.
“Let’s see what really comes of it, or whether it’s just more propaganda,” Bolton said. “If the Iranians are really willing to come and talk about all of their malign behavior in the region and around the world, I think they’d find the President willing to do it.”
Bolton noted that Trump has been “consistent” in saying he is willing to meet and negotiate with both North Korea and Iran.