Women, Minorities Absent in Rouhani’s New Government Lineup


London – Iranian President Hassan Rouhani put forward on Tuesday a list including the names of 17 ministers of his new government lineup to parliament, but failed to keep his campaign promises to appoint women and minorities.

Rouhani faced increasing pressure from allied political movements before announcing his government lineup that carried no surprises when it came to the promises he made during the presidential campaign to appoint a woman and a minister from the ethnic factions in his cabinet.

The ministerial lineup must now be approved by parliament in a session expected to take place next week.

Deputies from the Turkish Azeri parliamentary bloc that includes 110 MPs, criticized Rouhani on Tuesday for not including the “Turkish competencies” and asked that such an absence be compensated later through appointments in the positions of deputy ministers and heads of government institutions.

Hussein Ali Amiri, Iran’s Vice President for Parliamentary Affairs, said that the president consulted with the head of the country’s political parties and main parliamentary blocs ahead of drafting his lineup.

Rouhani made few major changes in his team by renewing the appointment of nine ministers from his current government, including Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif, Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh and Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi.

In an attempt to please his reformist allies, Rouhani also chose Masoud Karbasian as economic affairs and finance minister and Habibollah Bitaraf as energy minister, two technocrats who worked in the government of former reformist President Mohammed Khatami.

On August 5, Rouhani was sworn in for a further term during a ceremony held at parliament in Tehran.

Deputy parliament speaker Masoud Pezeshkian said parliament has started to study the records of the suggested ministers in the specialized committees ahead of voting on the new cabinet lineup in an open session next week.

Iran: Lawmakers’ Selfie with EU’s Mogherini Sparks Nation-Wide Heated Debate


London – The “contentious” selfie taken by Tehran parliamentarians with EU Foreign Affairs chief Federica Mogherini during the swearing in of re-elected President Hassan Rouhani made headlines in Iranian newspapers.

Up to 18 lawmakers lined up, in what the public criticized as an act lacking decorum, to take a snap with Mogherini.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif himself distanced himself from the heated debate taking the Tehran parliament by storm, using tactful diplomacy to dodge questions regarding the issue.

Mogherini traveled to Tehran to participate in Saturday’s inauguration of Rouhani, who was re-elected in May.

Shortly after the ceremony ended, the EU’s top diplomat found herself surrounded by several MPs snapping pictures with their phones.

Many social media users criticized and ridiculed the lawmakers for “humiliating” themselves and their country.

In a similar stance, Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi declined to comment on whether Deputy Foreign Minister of Iran Hassan Ghashghavi violated diplomatic norms when he joined other lawmakers for the Mogherini selfie. Qassemi dismissed all questions, giving no details as to what he thinks of the topic, which was at the center of heated moral and public debates in Iran.

On the other hand, Iranian parliamentarian Ali Motahari criticized the negative reactions towards the selfie and considered them as unfair. He pointed out that the picture sends a positive and powerful political message since Mogherini backs the Iran nuclear deal.

Mutahari also criticized the “sexualized view” of some critics, who built a cynical argument about “the deputies’ fondness for taking a picture with a European and Italian woman,” reported the Iran-based Kharbanline website.

On the other hand, the Fars news agency posted a photo, which many social media users felt showed Mogherini as unimpressed – and labelled the MPs’ behavior as “strange”.

Images of the lawmakers perched on desks and lining up with their smartphones in front of the Italian diplomat triggered a storm of anger and ridicule on Iranian social media under the hashtag “selfies of humiliation”.

A user on Twitter wrote: “Dear MPs, thank you for disgracing 80 million people.”

The reformist Ghanoon daily published a cartoon of Mogherini in the style of Edvard Munch’s famous painting, “The Scream”, with Iranian parliamentarians peeping from the corners with their mobile phones snapping away. The episode “shows the lack of proper education in the country”, it wrote in its editorial.

But the ultra-conservative Kayhan newspaper did not see the funny side. “Those who are supposed to defend the rights of the nation against the enemy queued up to snap photos in a humiliating way with the violators,” it said.

Ahmad Mazani, one of the MPs in the controversial pictures, tweeted that lawmakers had been banned “from interacting with special guests” during the ceremony – explaining the rush to crowd Mogherini at its conclusion.

But Twitter users remained critical, with one replying that the MPs had “embarrassed the nation”.

Rouhani Inaugurated President for a Second Term

Iranian president Hassan Rouhani attends his swearing-in ceremony for a further term, at the parliament in Tehran

London – Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced his country’s readiness for further enhancing cooperation with other states and the launch of “mother of all negotiations”, hinting to Tehran’s anticipation for communicating with the new US administration. Rouhani believes that the success of the nuclear agreement will develop foreign and domestic policies and enhance the economic situation.

The president reiterated that Iran will continue to develop its nuclear arsenal which is a guarantor of peace and insisted that a practical agreement must be reached between internal parties for national interests.

At his inauguration before parliament Saturday, Rouhani underscored the need for “national cooperation” and “constructive” relations with the world.

Rouhani was sworn in as Iran’s 12th president in Tehran at the presence of the country’s high-ranking officials as well as leaders and senior politicians from around the world.

The inauguration ceremony started with speeches from Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani and Judiciary Chief Sadeq Amoli Larijani at the presence of delegates from more than 140 countries, according to state news agencies, including High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, Iraqi President Fuad Masum, Afghani President Ashraf Ghani, and President of North Korean Supreme People’s Assembly Kim Jon-nam.

Rouhani announced his country’s readiness to cooperate with the countries present at the inauguration, adding that Tehran is not against any other country. He said the Iranian nation has made great sacrifices in the path of safeguarding freedom and the rule of law, adding that Iranians have put their trust in the Islamic establishment.

The president reiterated the political agenda of his second government, which he pursued over his first term, maintaining that his government “wants to be one of moderation, one which would not succumb to any aggression or be upset by any excitement.”

He told the audience that he aims to present a pacifist government preferring peace over war and reform over stagnancy in both domestic and foreign policies. The president vowed to follow the Iranian nation’s demands and emphasized that his government is ready to defend the country’s national interests.

During his presidential campaign, Rouhani praised the nuclear agreement saying that it keeps Iran from entering into wars, which was highly criticized by the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei who considered military power and people as the reason behind avoiding wars.

Rouhani’s defense of his foreign policy came in an attempt to end any criticism of the nuclear agreement, especially after US President Donald Trump signed new sanctions against Tehran.

He emphasized that the time of imposing sanctions has ended and called for holding negotiations in dealing with issues.

Rouhani said the US has not adhered to its obligations under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), because it is “addicted to the illegal and ineffective policy of sanctions and threats” and this proved to the world that Washington cannot be trusted. He stressed that Iran would never initiate the violation of the nuclear deal but would not remain silent in the face of US non-performance of the deal.

Referring to largest non-nuclear bomb used, Rouhani said that the time of “mother of bomb” is over. He stated: “Today, it’s not time to unveil the mother of bombs. Time is ripe for unveiling mother of all cooperation.”

“Mother of bombs” weighs 10 tons and is nine meters long, and was used by the US Army in eastern Afghanistan in April. Iran considered the use of this bomb a message directed to it and Washington was strongly criticized by commanders of Iranian armed forces.

In recent weeks, US imposed new sanctions on Iran nationals and entities, accusing it of breaching the nuclear deal.

According to foreign policy experts, Rouhani’s administration is going through its weakest times of foreign policies especially amid the wide criticism he has been receiving internally.

Current Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif is expected to remain in position for the coming four years.

Rouhani linked between peace and weapons saying that his country’s peace depends on weapons and weapons depend on peace, adding that the nuclear agreement is a model of national agreement in Iran.

Rouhani denies any disagreement between Iranian officials concerning the nuclear agreement following the criticism he received that his missile program affects his presidential campaign.

Rouhani also delivered several messages to his policies’ critics especially after recent internal disagreements reached an unprecedented level in the history of the regime.

He reiterated the importance of reaching a common understanding and agreement on national causes and opportunities.

The president vowed to honor his campaign’s promises.

Unlike previous ceremonies, Commander of Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Mohammed Ali Jafari didn’t attend Rouhani’s inauguration as well as Commander of IRGC’s Quds Force Qasem Soleimani. This indicates the ongoing disagreements between Rouhani and top IRGC officials after he described the military forces as a “government with rifle.”

Khamenei, Rouhani Disagree over Iran’s Priorities

President Hassan Rouhani sworn in for the second term (AFP)

London – Iranian President Hassan Rouhani officially started his second presidential term on Thursday, vowing to maintain his efforts to end Iran’s isolation as he was sworn in by the Islamic Republic’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in a ceremony attended by senior political, religious and military officials.

Rouhani is scheduled to take the oath of office before Parliament on Saturday, amid tight security measures provided by the Revolutionary Guards. He also due to present the new Cabinet formation within two weeks after taking the oath.

In a speech delivered on the occasion, the Iranian president strongly defended his internal and foreign policies over the past four years, stressing that the heavy participation of Iranian citizens in the last elections has demonstrated political progress and maturity that has been achieved in the country.

He pointed out that his government has taken essential steps to restore economic stability, reduce inflation and poverty and end all forms of discrimination.

Commenting on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which was signed in 2015, Rouhani said: “The nuclear deal is a sign of Iran’s goodwill on the international stage.”

“Although we are paying the price of our independence because of dignity, we will never accept being isolated by enemies,” he added.

The Iranian president explained his government’s economic policy and said his priority was combating poverty and facing the unemployment crisis. He pointed out that the nuclear agreement was a step towards the rebuilding of the Iranian economic system.

During his first term in office, Rouhani disagreed with the Iranian-backed Revolutionary Guards on internal investments, as the IRGC had long opposed the entry of foreign companies into the domestic investment market, contrary to Rouhani’s aspirations for economic openness following the lifting of sanctions.

In his address to Rouhani, Khamenei stressed the need to form a government that supports unity and dignity and takes into account internal energies, considering the twelfth government’s priority to eradicate poverty, corruption, control inflation and promote economic development.

In this regard, the spiritual leader said in the text of the presidential decree: “Once again, the implementation of the economy of resistance and the attention to the creation of jobs and to internal production must be stressed.”

In Letter to UN, Western States Accuse Iran of ‘Violating Nuclear Deal’


London – On behalf of her country and four other western states, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley sent a letter to the international organization calling for the Security Council to discuss “appropriate responses” against Iran in reply to Tehran’s recent launch of a satellite rocket.

The US, France, Germany, and Britain also called on UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to report to the council on Iran’s ballistic missile and space launch activities.

In the letter written, Haley said the launch of the rocket “represents a threatening and provocative step by Iran.”

The launch was not consistent with a UN resolution that endorsed a 2015 accord between Tehran and six world powers, including the US, which agreed to limit its nuclear and ballistic-missile programs in exchange for sanctions relief, Reuters reported on Wednesday.

The four countries also mentioned that the technology necessary for the space launch vehicle was “closely related to those of ballistic missiles, in particular to those of an intercontinental ballistic missile.”

The letter added: “Iran’s longstanding program to develop ballistic missiles continues to be inconsistent with UN Security Council Resolution 2231 and has a destabilizing effect in the region.”

The four countries plan to discuss the issue of Iran’s rocket launch during the next Security Council meeting. However, no date was yet set for such a meeting.

On July 27, Iran announced the successful launch of its rocket after the US House of Representatives voted on a new list of sanctions against Tehran.

Since the election of US President Donald Trump, the US letter is considered the first agreement written between the four states to transfer Iran’s activities to the UN Security Council.

Washington Seeks to Inspect Suspicious Iranian Military Bases


London – US President Donald Trump’s Administration is seeking to conduct inspections of suspicious Iranian military sites, in an attempt to verify Tehran’s commitment to the 2015 Nuclear Deal, according to well-informed sources in the US government.

The inspection is regarded as one of the most stringent approaches to prevent Iran’s access to nuclear weapons.

While the new US administration is trying to monitor the existing deal more rigorously, it is working to reform what Trump’s aides have described as “serious flaws” in the historic agreement.

The Associated Press (AP) quoted US officials, who were speaking on condition of anonymity, as saying that US effort “also includes discussions with European countries to negotiate a follow-up agreement to prevent Iran from resuming nuclear development after the deal’s restrictions expire” in around ten years.

During nuclear negotiations, Iran has fiercely opposed the inspection of its military posts and is likely to reject any new request to inspect military sites, prompting the US president to take the long-awaited decision on whether to abide by the international agreement that he has been avoiding.

In September 2015, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Yukiya Amano, visited the Parchin facility, where Iran was suspected of carrying out initial tests of nuclear weapons.

The agency then said it took samples from the site as part of secret negotiations leading to a nuclear deal.

At the end of August, the IAEA announced an agreement with Tehran to conduct inspections by Iranian experts.

According to AP, if Iran refuses the inspection request, the US president will have a solid argument to say that Tehran is breaching the deal. However, if Iran agrees to inspections, “those in Trump’s administration, who want to preserve the deal, will be emboldened to argue it’s advancing US national security effectively.”

Iran’s nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), was signed in Vienna on July 14, 2015, between Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, which include China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States, in addition to Germany and the European Union.

Iran Threatens to Hit US Bases as Rouhani Brother’s Health Deteriorates


London – Iran’s armed forces chief of staff Major General Mohammad Baqeri threatened on Monday to target US bases if the US administration places the Revolutionary Guards on its list of terrorist organizations.

At a gathering of military commanders held in the city of Mashhad in the northeast of Iran, Baqeri said: “Labeling the Revolutionary Guards the same as terrorist groups and applying similar sanctions to them is a big risk for America and its bases and forces deployed in the region.”

In mid-June the US Senate voted for a new legislation that binds the US administration to enforce new penalties on Iran, including imposing sanctions on the country’s ballistic-missile program and designating the Revolutionary Guards Corps as a terrorist organization.

The legislation is waiting for the approval of the House of Representatives and the signature of President Donald Trump before becoming a law.

Referring to the recent US legislation, Baqeri said American officials should speak a little more “wisely, thoughtfully and maturely” about a powerful country like Iran, adding that his country’s missile program was defensive and would never be up for negotiation.

Separately, several Iranian websites reported on Monday that Hossein Fereidoun, the brother of President Hassan Rouhani was transferred to hospital on his second day of detention.

Iran’s judiciary spokesperson Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejeie announced on Sunday that Rouhani’s brother was arrested on financial crime charges at a time when the president is scheduled to take the oath of office in Majlis and present his new government lineup at the start of next month.

The reports said Fereidoun’s health became critical when he appeared in court on Monday during an interrogation session.

During the past four years, Fereidoun was the main target of Rouhani’s opponents and was used as a means to exert pressure on the Iranian president.

Rouhani’s Brother Arrested On Financial Charges


London- Iran’s judiciary spokesperson Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejeie announced on Sunday that the brother of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and his personal advisor, Hossein Fereydoun, was arrested on financial crime charges.

In a weekly-televised press conference, Ejeie said the decision to arrest Rouhani’s brother came following multiple investigations on financial crime charges, adding that other people were also investigated in relation to the case, some of whom are already in jail.

“Yesterday, bail was issued for him but because he failed to secure it he was referred to prison,” Ejeie said.

The timing of the arrest drives question marks over its incentives, particularly when Rouhani is preparing to swear the presidential constitutional oath and present his new government lineup at the start of next month.

Informed Iranian sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that Rouhani informed the judiciary about his refusal that the current Justice Minister Mostafa Pourmohamadi remains in office.

For his part, Ali Shakouri-Rad, secretary general of the reformist Islamic Union Party of Iran hoped on Sunday that the judicial decision to arrest Fereydoun “does not affect the next government lineup.”

Shakouri-Rad also asked Rouhani to stay clam in facing the news of his brother’s arrest.

During the same briefing on Sunday, Ejeie said that the Iranian Judiciary also sentenced to ten years an American man holding several nationalities after accusing him of “infiltrating” the country.

“It was verified and determined that he was gathering (information) and was involved in infiltration,” the judiciary spokesman said.

Following news that an unidentified US citizen had been sentenced in Iran to 10 years in prison, AFP reported that the US called on Iran Sunday to immediately release US citizens and other foreigners detained on “fabricated” national security charges.

A State Department official told AFP: “We call for the immediate release of all US citizens unjustly detained in Iran so they can return to their families,” without making specific reference to a person.

Rouhani Meets Khamenei to Discuss New Government Formation


London – Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is expected to meet with Spiritual Leader Ali Khamenei to discuss the formation of the new government, amid bickering between the Iranian prime minister, the IRGC and the judiciary.

Rouhani is facing increasing pressure from his opponents, who are looking to impose a compromise on his second government, in light of the presidential elections results, which saw the president winning 16 million votes.

While the formation of the new government has turned into a controversial issue, the past days have seen strong bickering between Rouhani and leaders from the IRGC, following harsh criticism by the president of the military apparatus’ interference in the country’s economic, political and media affairs.

In this context, Iranian Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri said that Rouhani was currently holding talks with regime officials to form a new government. He added that the president was seeking the creation of a cabinet that would meet the Iranian people’s economic, social and political aspirations.

Jahangiri noted that a meeting is expected to be held on Monday between Rouhani and Khamenei to discuss the cabinet issue.

The Iranian spiritual leader usually intervenes in five ministries, which include the defense, security, interior, foreign affairs, culture and media – but key ministries such as the economy and oil are likely to see a change in ministers, according to well-informed political sources.

Iran’s oil minister, Bijan Zangeneh, said he did not expect to remain in Rouhani’s second government, especially following mounting pressure he faced last week after signing an agreement with France’s Total company.

The Iranian Constitution stipulates that the minister of justice is chosen from among the names proposed by the head of the judiciary.

Ambiguity also surrounds the future of Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif, as Rouhani must obtain the approval of Khamenei, whether he wanted to keep Zarif or change him.

Suleimani Responds to Rouhani’s Attack against IRGC


London- Quds Force commander Qassem Suleimani has revealed hidden dimensions in the dispute between the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the Iranian government, when he lashed out at President Hassan Rouhani for criticizing the role of the IRGC in the country’s economic, political and media affairs.

In remarks on Tuesday, Suleimani warned against weakening the Islamic forces by “exposing them to various attacks”, adding that the IRGC has fought an “international war defending its allies in Syria and Iraq.”

In parallel comments, IRGC Commander General Mohammad Ali Jafari said in response to Rouhani: “Some believe that we are against dealing with the world and that we seek war, but I announce that the Revolutionary Guard wants peace, which will not be achieved unless our enemies stop launching wars against us.”

Meanwhile, well-informed sources suggested that the real reason behind the ongoing bickering was competition over three key ministries, namely the oil, intelligence and defense, ahead of the announcement of the new Iranian government next month.

Suleimani implicitly warned Iranian officials of standing against Religious Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, adding that the IRGC should be kept away from political disputes and should not be politicized, Mehr news agency reported.

Last month, the Iranian president strongly criticized the IRGC, which he described as a “government with a rifle”.

Rouhani also criticized the Revolutionary Guard intervening in the Iranian economy.

“A part of the national economy in the hands of a government that does not have military might and has been handed over authority by a government that does,” he stated.

Suleimani’s Tuesday remarks were made in his first appearance to the public following Iran’s presidential elections.

Speaking during a conference for IRGC leaders and fighters who participated in the first Gulf war, the Quds Force Commander said: “Had it not been for the Revolutionary Guard, the country would not have existed.”