Iran former president Hassan Rouhani with Ebrahim Raisi on inauguration day. August 4, 2021

Iran former president Hassan Rouhani with Ebrahim Raisi on inauguration day.

Iran's Raisi Criticized For Saying Government Coffers Are Empty

12/12/2021

President Ebrahim Raisi’s recent remark that government coffers were empty when he took office in August has led to recriminations among factions in Tehran.

Not only Raisi complained about an empty treasury, but he said on December 7 that "We have been paying 100 trillion rials ($400 million) per month on top of other government expenses to cover debts incurred by the previous administration."

Raisi’s admission came while an Iranian delegation was in Vienna discussing the revival of the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and demanding that all US sanctions be removed at once.

Raisi and his supporters had harshly criticized former President Hassan Rouhani for revealing Iran's dire economic situation in front of "the enemies", when Rouhani had complained in June that the government's coffers were empty.

The editor of hardline daily Kayhan even accused Rouhani at the time of giving away state secrets to the enemy by issuing such statements.

During his election campaign in June, Raisi said that even a novice diplomat knows that someone who is involved in negotiations should not talk about an empty treasury.

The discussion reveals the political dynamics between rival groups and factions. While hardliners wish to claim a victory from possible success in nuclear talks, moderates supporting former President Rouhani and ex-foreign minister Javad Zarif have been saying that a possible victory is only feasible if the new negotiating team stick to what the Rouhani administration had achieved by June.

In the meantime, those who previously accused Rouhani of giving away government secrets to foreigners now support Raisi for making the same statements about an empty treasury.

Planning and Budget Organization’s Massoud Mirkazemi further elaborated on the debts by saying, "In August, we took over the government while it was in debt for 600 trillion rials ($2,5 billion), but there was no cash in the treasury to pay the debt."

Moderate conservative website Khabar online has asked why Iran's conservatives are silent about statements that might ruin Iran's chances in the nuclear negotiations by limiting its bargaining chips.

Raisi himself had sarcastically criticized Rouhani’s statement about an empty treasury in June. "If they knew the language of negotiations, they would have not said that the treasury was empty," and Parliament Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf who was Tehran's mayor had lashed out at Rouhani and said as early as 2013: "We wish to speak at the negotiating table from a position of power. When you disclose that the treasury is empty, what we are going to say to the other side?"

Around the same time, former hardline lawmaker Hamid Rasaei criticized Rouhani "for speaking about an empty treasury once during a speech at the University of Tehran, and again during his UN General Assembly speech. Even if it is true, common sense should prevent you from saying something like that while you are at the enemy's house."

According to Khabar Online, this is yet another instance of Iran's conservatives changing their position about certain matters depending on whose interest in the Iranian political landscape is at stake.

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