عربي | كوردى

Iran's hardliners target Rouhani as US pressure grows

Iran's hardliners target Rouhani as US pressure grows

2019/05/17 | 00:30

(Hatha al-Youm | Iraq News)- Growing US pressure on Iran has weakened President Hassan

Rouhani and made his hardline rivals more assertive at home and abroad, recent

developments show.When he succeeded firebrand leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in

2013, Rouhani was seen as an establishment figure who would do little to end

Iran’s long standoff with the West. Two years later, his administration signed

the nuclear deal with six world powers that spurred hopes for wider political

change.Rouhani’s authority is now waning: his brother, a key adviser

on the 2015 deal, has been sentenced to jail on unspecified corruption charges,

a hardline rival heads the judiciary and his government is under fire for

responding too softly to US President Donald Trump’s sanctions squeeze.Trump has said lifting sanctions in return for curbs on

Iran’s nuclear program did not stop Tehran meddling in neighboring states or

developing ballistic missile capabilities and Rouhani’s outreach to the West

was a fig leaf.Yet the US pullout from the nuclear deal a year ago and

subsequent attempts to end Iran’s oil exports have led to a sharp increase in

regional tension: the US military said on Tuesday it was braced for “possibly

imminent threats to US forces” from Iran-backed forces in neighboring Iraq.Rouhani has urged opposing factions to work together and

noted limits on his power in a country where an elected government operates

under clerical rule and alongside powerful security forces and an influential

judiciary.“How much authority the government has in the areas that are

being questioned must be examined,” the presidency’s website quoted Rouhani as

saying on Saturday, an apparent attempt to fend off public anger at plummeting

living standards.Ebrahim Raisi, who became head of the judiciary in March and

is a contender to succeed Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, retorted that

all branches of government had sufficient authority to carry out their duties.Local media interpreted the statement as a direct rebuke

from Raisi, who ran against Rouhani in the 2017 presidential election.On May 4, Rouhani’s brother Hossein Fereydoun was sentenced

to prison. The judiciary has not given details of the charges against him and

attempts by Reuters to seek comment were unsuccessful. The judiciary has said

it has no political motivation for the cases it tries.“OFFENSIVENESS AND ARROGANCE”Rouhani has two years until his term ends, but if he is seen

by Iranians as responsible for their problems, his successor is more likely to

take a hard line with the West, some analysts say.When Rouhani announced last week that Iran would roll back

some of its commitments under the international nuclear deal a year after Trump

withdrew, the hardline daily Kayhan newspaper called the move “late and

minimal”.“If Mr. Rouhani’s government had reacted reciprocally from

the beginning to the broken promises of America and Europe, they (the Americans

and Europeans) would not have reached this level of offensiveness and arrogance,”

an article in the newspaper said on Thursday.Restrictions on social media, championed by hardline

officials and clerics, are putting further political pressure on Rouhani, who

promised in his 2017 and 2013 election campaigns to lift such curbs.Telegram, a messaging app popular in Iran, was banned last

year. Twitter is also banned and hardliners have set their sights on Instagram,

used by some 24 million Iranians.In his comments on Saturday, Rouhani said the government

does not have full authority over the cyberspace, underlining the limits to his

powers.He and other officials, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah

Ali Khamenei, have active Twitter accounts despite the ban.Last month, Instagram shut down several accounts under the

names of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, the country’s most powerful

military and economic force, after Washington declared the Guards a foreign

terrorist organization.Some lawmakers are now seeking a complete ban on Instagram,

one of the few social media platforms yet to be blocked.Javad Javidnia, the deputy in charge of cyberspace affairs

at the prosecutor general’s office in Tehran, said last month Instagram would

be blocked unless the government found an effective way to monitor its content,

Fars news agency said.Telecoms Minister Mohammad Javad Azari-Jahromi told Reuters

in an interview last month that he used social media actively, including

Twitter, and wanted fewer restrictions. But he said filtering usually takes

place with a judicial decree.“Ayatollah Raisi has recently started his work in this area

and we will have to see what his view will be,” he said.“FILL THE EMPTY SPOT”The Guards have used authorities’ response to heavy flooding

in March to criticize the government and promote their effectiveness.A video of the head of the Guards’ ground forces lambasting

the government after visiting a flood-stricken area in western Iran in early

April was widely circulated on social media.“There are a lot of problems. There is no management. No

government official has the courage to go there,” Brigadier General Mohammad

Pakpour said in the video. “It’s horrible.”Hardline news sites posted pictures of members of the Guards

helping remote villages, with their uniforms covered in mud.Iran’s Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh, a Rouhani ally who has

tried to attract investment, has been accused by hardline politicians of giving

away the nation’s wealth and criticized for not doing more to bypass sanctions.The Guards have developed expertise in bypassing sanctions

through years of experience and are now eyeing opportunities arising from the

new US economic restrictions.Khatam al Anbia, the Guards’ huge engineering and construction

arm, controls over 800 affiliated companies worth billions of dollars. Its head,

Saeed Mohammad, said at an oil and gas exhibition in Tehran on May 2 that the

firm has the ability to develop a phase of South Pars, the world’s largest gas

field, according to the Iranian Students’ News Agency.“Our goal is to fill the empty spot left by foreign

companies,” he said.


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