President Ebrahim Raisi (R) and parliament speaker Mohammad Ghalibaf. Undated

Leading Iran News Outlet Berates Ghalibaf For ‘Ping-Pong Criticism’

10/17/2021

A Tehran news agency in a commentary Friday launched a blistering attack on the parliament speaker under the headline "Who Is Ghalibaf Criticizing These Days?"

"Which of the country's authorities is Ghalibaf really addressing and what it is bothering him?" asked an unsigned commentary in the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA), charging that as a high-ranking official for many years, Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf (Qalibaf) bore some responsible for the country’s state of affairs.

Ghalibaf's criticisms, rampant during the previous administration of President Hassan Rouhani, have continued since President Ebrahim Raisi took office in mid-August, highlighting divisions within the principlist camp.

The ISNA commentary argued that during the Rouhani administration, when the president pushed for market-oriented reforms and achieved the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, Ghalibaf's criticisms were based on politics and policy differences.

"But do his criticisms not reflect back on him and his political faction now that an administration close to his political faction is in office and when some of his close associates are in management posts?" ISNA asked. The article suggested that Ghalibaf's continued criticisms might illustrate "a rupture" between influential principlists.

While Ghalibaf has generally avoided directly criticizing Raisi's government, some lawmakers have claimed that he secretly tried to influence parliamentarians into not voting approval for some of Raisi's nominations as ministers.

"Wrong beliefs and inefficient managers are two problems in our governance,” Ghalibaf said last week. “The problem is not lack of money and resources. We must invest time and energy for these things.”

The ISNA commentary argued that with Raisi's election as president, loyalists of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in control of all three branches of government – presidency, parliament, judiciary – might join forces to address people's problems rather than indulging in "a ping pong of criticism from behind podiums."

The commentary suggested Ghalibaf's continued carping about the country’s management might substantiate an argument, often used by reformists, that having all branches of government in the hands of a single faction might lead to disputes, and harm rather than benefit Iran.

Under Ghalibaf’s leadership, the parliament passed a law in December that complicated Rouhani’s efforts to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), after Joe Biden won the November United States presidential election committed to restoring the deal. The law obliged the government to step up Iran’s nuclear program further beyond the limits set by the JCPOA and to reduce Iran’s cooperation with the United Nations nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

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