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Iran’s new parliamentary speaker launches scathing attack on Rouhani

In his first speech as parliament speaker, Iranian hardliner Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf launched a scathing attack on President Hassan Rouhani’s “ineffective” political record, pledging to guide the government policy in the “right revolutionary direction.”

In remarks made on Sunday, hardliner Ghalibaf claimed Iran’s executive office is “in turmoil” and preoccupied with external affairs rather than issues affecting Iranians hard-hit by US sanctions.

The three-time presidential candidate and former mayor of Tehran called on the newly-formed parliament to adopt a “revolutionary and logical attitude” towards the government to guide it onto the right path, Fars News reported.

A former police chief and commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) air force, Ghalibaf was elected Thursday as speaker of Iran’s 11th parliament, one of the most influential positions in the Islamic Republic.

The legislature is now controlled by hardliners following a stringent vetting process last year which disqualified many reformist candidates.

Ghalibaf, who failed in his bid to become the president of Iran in 2017 and withdrew from the race in favor of current judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi, is expected to become a real headache for President Rouhani’s government.

Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has tried for decades to maintain a power balance between the hardliners and the relatively reformist camp in order to maintain stability within the establishment.

Raisi, a hardliner, has been at loggerheads with Rouhani since taking the helm of Iran’s courts in March 2019, appointed as chief of justice by Khamenei.

Raisi subsequently launched an anti-corruption campaign, targeting many people close to Rouhani including his brother who was sentenced to five years in prison last October over corruption.

“Taking a few people to court over corruption will not fool the people, and they must know about the fate of the large sums of money that have been taken from the treasury,” Rouhani responded to Raisi in November.

However, the new speaker seems eager to hold the government to account.

“The 11th parliament is neither confrontational … nor is it going to compromise when it comes to people’s rights and interests,” he warned, adding the new parliament “will now allow to the government to be negligent.”

Iran is in the middle of an economic crisis brought on by the US re-imposition of sanctions in late 2018, a drop in oil prices and decades of mismanagement and corruption that has permeated through different branches of the establishment.

Millions of people are rely on government handouts to make ends meet amid high unemployment, growing inflation and a plummeting currency.

Cash-strapped Iranians have questioned the wisdom of spending billions of dollars in the country’s regional endeavors establishing proxy forces across the region, and have called on the IRGC and the establishment to redirect funds to their own people.

As one of the top commanders of the IRGC during the Iran-Iraq war of 1980s, Ghalibaf was close to the slain IRGC Quds commander Qasem Soleimani who was the architect of Iran’s support for its proxy forces across the Middle East.

Ghalibaf said in his speech that the strategy to support Iran’s proxy forces remains unchanged.

“The 11th parliament feels obliged to continue the path of martyr Soleimani, in increasing the strength of the Resistance…and sees the supporting the people of Palestine, Hizbollah of Lebanon, the Resistance groups Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the oppressed people of Yemen  as its national and revolutionary duty,” Ghalibaf told lawmakers.

Ghalibaf said that Iran will not abandon Iraq and continues to be engaged in the country.

“It will be by the side of people of Iraq, its government and Marjaiya [Shiite clerical leadership] and is ready to offer any assistance,” he added.

Given his extensive support network within the powerful IRGC, Ghalibaf’s new role will have a lasting impact on the direction Iran will take in the coming years as it tries to offset the impact of crippling US sanctions and reach a compromise with the remaining members of the 2015 nuclear deal.

President Donald Trump withdrew from the landmark deal in May 2018, accusing Iran of having a nuclear weapon program and causing mayhem across the Middle East through IRGC proxy forces in the region.

Iran has since taken steady steps in violation of the agreement in the absence of international aid to ease the sanctions.

The US on Wednesday ended cooperation waivers granted to countries still working at Iranian nuclear plants, dealing a further blow to Tehran. Source