Rouhani pledges to defeat 'anti-Iranian' officials in the White House

  • 28 Aug 2018

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani was defending his administration before parliament after recent tensions with the US. A majority of lawmakers were not satisfied with his explanations and have referred his handling of the economy to judicial review.

President Hassan Rouhani, a pragmatist who reduced tension with the West by striking a nuclear deal with world powers in 2015, now himself faces a backlash from hardliners after US President Donald Trump pulled out of the pact in May. ( AFP Archive )

Iran will overcome newly reimposed US measures against Tehran, President Hassan Rouhani told a parliamentary session on Tuesday, vowing that his government would defeat any Western plot against the Islamic Republic.

The parliament summoned Rouhani to answer questions on weak economic growth and rising unemployment, but Rouhani said the troubles only began when Washington reimposed sanctions on Tehran.

"I want to assure the Iranian nation that we will not allow the US plot against the Islamic Republic to succeed," Rouhani said in a live broadcast on state television.

"We will not let this bunch of anti-Iranians in the White House be able to plot against us."

He added, "We are not afraid of America or the economic problems. We will overcome the troubles."

While Rouhani warned that "painting a bleak picture of people's lives will lead to further darkness," lawmakers voted four separate times to say they were unconvinced of his answers, with the likelihood of the judiciary taking up the question of a struggling economy for further review.

Tuesday's sitting was only the second time in its history that Iran's parliament has ordered a sitting president to appear before it to answer questions. The previous time was in 2011 over Western sanctions on the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

On Sunday, Iran's parliament sacked the minister of economic affairs and finance due to the sharp fall in the rial currency and the deterioration in the economic situation.

In early August Iranian lawmakers voted out the minister of labour and last month Rouhani replaced the head of the central bank.

Trump trashes nuclear accord

President Donald Trump in May ripped up a deal negotiated by his predecessor, Barack Obama, in which the US, France, UK, China, Russia and Germany agreed to ease sanctions on Iran in exchange for Tehran curbing its nuclear programme.

Washington imposed a new round of unilateral sanctions in August targeting Iran’s trade in gold and other precious metals, its purchases of US dollars and its car industry. 

A new round of Trump sanctions to be imposed in November targets Iranian oil sales.

Deflecting tension

Rouhani, a pragmatist who reduced tension with the West by striking a nuclear deal with world powers in 2015, now faces a backlash from hardliners over Washington’s pullout from the pact.

Hardline elements in the parliament have pressed Rouhani to reshuffle his economic team to better shield the economy from Trump’s moves and tamp down public discontent.

Rouhani said the troubles began with anti-government protests in early January when many Iranians, angered by rising prices took to the streets, chanting slogans against the government and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

"The protests tempted Trump to withdraw from the nuclear deal," he said, asking lawmakers to support his cabinet and not add to anti-government sentiment.

Although the economic problems were critical, Rouhani said, "More important than that is that many people have lost their faith in the future of the Islamic Republic and are in doubt about its power."

Lawmakers asked why the government had not adopted reforms in the financial sector and foreign exchange market, and sought an explanation why, more than two years after the nuclear deal, Iranian banks still had only limited access to global financial services.

Rouhani appointed a new central bank governor and accepted the government spokesman’s resignation, suggesting that he accepts the need to reshuffle his economic team.