As Iran’s financial crisis continues, former President Hassan Rouhani has claimed that his pragmatic government would have handled the situation more efficiently.
Rouhani alluded to a temporary rise in the value of Iran’s rial in late March when news emerged that his former nuclear negotiator and deputy foreign minister Abbas Araqchi (Araghchi) had gone to a diplomatic tour of Syria and Lebanon.
"If former Foreign Minister Zarif went for that mission rather than his deputy, the rate of exchange would have possibly dropped [more] by 50,000 rials," he told former aides in a Nowruz gathering this week.
Rouhani and Iran’s reformists have been blaming conservatives and hardliners who control both the presidency and the parliament of squandering the chance to reach an agreement with the West over Iran’s nuclear program, or the inability to manage the economy amid US sanctions.
Hardliners offer contradictory responses. They blame the sanctions when pressed to explain their economic failures, but also claim economic progress is not dependent on sanctions when they want to justify their anti-West ideology or defend their pro-China and pro-Russia policies.
Rouhani dismissed his successor's claim about lack of any connection between foreign policy and economy as "baseless." He said, "at least twice Iranian governments managed to reduce the inflation rate; once between 2003 and 2005 under [moderate] President Mohammad Khatami, and again in the years 2016 to 2018 in my own government."
He reminded that following the 2015 nuclear deal with the West, Iran's economic growth was strong.
Former President Hassan Rouhani and his key aides in February 2021
Meanwhile, he once again called for a referendum in Iran to determine foreign and domestic policies.
In a related development, conservative pundit Mohammad Mohajeri wrote in a commentary in Etemad newspaper that Iranians will no longer take part in elections just out of a sense of religious or national responsibility.
He added that the undecided [grey] part of the Iranian population now calculates whether to take part in the elections based on how it might affect its livelihood.
However, the emergence of political alliances in the conservative camp and the discussions about impeaching some of the cabinet ministers show that the issue of elections is not totally out of the people's agenda. By discussing impeachments, the government's political rivals signal their presence.
He recalled that the previous parliamentary election was affected by Trump's withdrawal from the nuclear deal with Iran, the Covid pandemic and the people's disillusionment about the possibility of any change in the structure of the government. The result, he said, was unprecedented low turnout which was lower than 20 percent in some of Iran's big cities.
"Now the people are waiting for a move [in the top layer of the political structure] that would indicate there is a will for change," Mohajeri said, reminding that the weakness of the current parliament, possibly the weakest one in the history of Iranian parliaments, leaves no hope in the legislative body. Meanwhile, the regime’s increasing willingness to bar the candidacy of even loyal politicians leaves very little hope for participation in the elections.
Mohajeri expressed regret that although following the shock of the 2022 protests disconcerted officials talked about reforms, but a few weeks after relative calm, they seem to have forgotten their promises. Politicians and regime insiders might be happy even with small changes, but those who took to the streets for over five months and the women who are staging a spectacular show of civil disobedience by rejecting compulsory hijab may have big ideas in mind.