Mowlavi Abdolhamid, the top religious leader of Iran's largely Sunni Baluch population

Iranian Sunni Leader Suggests Power Centralized 'Elsewhere'

Saturday, 06/08/2024

Iran's top Sunni cleric, Mowlavi Abdolhamid, lamented the country's severe economic challenges, citing the failure of both "reformist" and conservative factions to manage government affairs effectively.

"Iranians are grappling with unprecedented challenges as their currency faces massive devaluation, ranking among the world's least valuable, despite the nation's abundant natural resources, such as gas and oil," said the top religious leader of Iran’s largely Sunni Baluch population during his Friday prayer sermons in Zahedan, the provincial capital of Sistan-Baluchestan.

The statement comes amid upcoming snap presidential elections, called following the sudden death of President Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash on May 19. Mohammad Mokhber has since assumed the role of acting president.

The outspoken cleric emphasized the nation's desire for freedom and women's demand for equal rights, pointing to the failure of both "reformist" and conservative factions to fulfill these aspirations.

“Despite their promises, the previous administrations failed to deliver. Reformists also failed to bring about a meritocracy system,” he said. “We talked to the fundamentalists [conservatives] about national and regional problems, but they didn't show any real commitment to solving them.”

Former president Hassan Rouhani standing next to Mowlavi Abdolhamid

In his critique of past administrations, Abdolhamid highlighted their constrained authority, asserting that "affairs are overseen from elsewhere," likely referring to Supreme Leader Khamenei's ultimate control over decisions, and raised concerns regarding the state's transparency and accountability.

“The previous administration [under Hassan Rouhani] pledged to appoint 10 Sunni ambassadors, having received nominations from us for these positions. However, the Foreign Minister said that decision-making powers were not solely within their jurisdiction, and other institutions are involved in the decision-making,” Abdolhamid said.

Khamenei and his supporters have largely hesitated to acknowledge the economic strain on the country.

Pointing to the "weight of responsibilities" inherent in the role of president, the outspoken cleric questioned the candidates, asking if they have considered strategies to address the pressing issues facing the country, issues that have contributed to a rise in suicides.

Abdolhamid's views seem to align with many critics who consider the Iranian presidency to be more of a symbolic post. With significant decisions made at Khamenei's headquarters.

The incoming president, set to be elected by the end of June, faces the challenge of addressing escalating economic woes exacerbated by ongoing oil export and banking restrictions due to international sanctions. These sanctions primarily stem from Iran's advancing nuclear program and financial support for terrorist groups, like Hamas and Hezbollah.

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