PHOTO: President Rouhani and judiciary head Sadegh Larijani
Ongoing tension within Iran’s regime rose on Tuesday as the Rouhani Government and the powerful head of the judiciary, Sadegh Larijani, traded warnings over corruption.
The issue of corruption has been prominent in Iranian politics in recent years, with high-ranking officials of the Ahmadinejad Administration — including 1st Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi — imprisoned; a multi-billion dollar bank fraud involving the heads of Iran’s leading financial institutions; President Ahmadinejad accusing the Revolutionary Guards of illegal trade and smuggling; and the Administration’s ally, billionaire tycoon Babak Zanjani, now facing a death sentence for allegedly diverting billions of dollars in revenues.
The disputes have continued into the Rouhani years, as the Government has faced pressure from hardline critics and the Revolutionary Guards. This spring the “payslips scandal” broke over excessive salaries and bonuses for Government officials, and the Supreme Leader and President Hassan Rouhani have made high-profile statements warning of the ongoing danger from corruption.
In the latest episode, Larijani — the hardline cleric who is the brother of Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani — tried to tie the Government to the Zanjani case:
Babak Zanjani has said that he aided the President’s campaign [in the 2013 election] with millions of dollars. We don’t consider his words as completely true. He says a lot of things and discusses a lot of claims. If we wanted to pursue these, we should have summoned the persons who were related [to these issues].
Now that you [Rouhani] are saying we should pursue the behind-the-curtains [issues], I have no problem: We will summon all those who were named by [Zanjani], and if necessary, we will detain them to find out what the issue was.
A senior aide to Rouhani, Mohammad Baqer Nobakht, denied that he had any evidence of Zanjani’s support for the election campaign, and said the Government is working fully with the judiciary on the case.
The President challenged the judiciary to provide more information on the Zanjani affair:
Is it possible for a person to steal $3 billion alone? Whom was he connected to? Who helped him? Whom were his partners? What position do they have? How was the oil given to this person? How was the money handed to this person? … The judiciary has pursued this [matter], and has issued a verdict…..
But people’s questions remain. Now they want to execute him [Zanjani]. [Suppose that] he is executed, [but] what happened to the [missing] money? What happened to the money that was in the hands of this man, and where did it go?
He then went farther by counter-attacking. He implicitly seized on recent claims by an MP that Larijani has been using public funds for his personal affairs:
Every institution must act within the scope of its own powers and responsibilities and respond to public opinion. The Judiciary has a very heavy weight on its shoulders in this regard and must be responsive.
In November, MP Mahmoud Sadeghi called for an official inquiry into Larijani’s management of financial account. Judicial authorities responded by trying to arrest Sadeghi at his home, but protesters convened and helped block the detention. The MP subsequently appeared in court and was released on bail.
In early December, Sadeghi told an audience at Tehran University that he had filed a complaint against Larijani in Iran’s Clerical Court. He also called on the judiciary to explain Larijani’s alleged personal use of its accounts.
“We Will Never Abandon Assad Regime”
The Supreme Leader’s top aide has repeated that the Islamic Republic will never abandon the Assad regime and the Syrian people.
A senior Iranian official has stressed the Iran will never abandon the Syrian people and government.
Ali Akbar Velayati made the remarks on Tuesday after a meeting with Iraq’s Vice President Nouri al-Maliki in Tehran.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran will by no means retreat from its principal policy to support the resistance and the resistance front, including the people and government of Syria,” said Velayati.
A former Foreign Minister, Velayati stressed — despite the essential Russian and Iranian support propping up the Assad regime — that all efforts for “peace and stability…are being coordinated through the Syrian government”.
He added, “Those who have played a destructive role in Syria and are now seeking to interfere in the peace and reconciliation process and also in shaping the post-war status in the country must know that they have a dark record in Syria.”
Tehran Prosecutor: We Have Imprisoned Up to 70 Spies
The Tehran Prosecutor General has said that up to 70 people are imprisoned for compromising sensitive national intelligence.
“These people betrayed the country’s nuclear, military, political, social, and cultural intelligence to the enemies,” Abbas Jafari Doulatabadi proclaimed on Tuesday.
He said the country’s security apparatus was on the watch for any possible threats.
Those “threats” include political prisonerss serving long-term sentences; American-Iranian oil executive Siamak Namazi and his 80-year old father, Canadian-Iranian former UNESCO official Baqer Namazi; Lebanese-Iranian activist Nazar Zaka; Iranian-American Robin Shahini; Anglo-Iranian charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Radcliffe; and Iranian-American Karan Vafadari and his wife Afarin Neyssari, who run an art gallery in Tehran.