LATEST: Rouhani: Head of State TV Tried to Prevent My Live Broadcast

President Rouhani challenged his critics as he addressed heads of universities on Tuesday, referring to Iran’s nuclear talks with the 5+1 Powers:

Why must some illiterates who receive money from certain sectors talk, but our university professors, intellectuals and students are silent? Why is it that when an international event occurs professors write private letters to the president? Why do you not shout? Why do you not enter the field? We want a spirit like Socrates.

Those who negotiated in the Geneva [nuclear] negotiations are also from university and are considered our university professors.

Several MPs denounced the remarks and moved to the economic front, criticizing the Government for an “unbalanced, unplanned and incorrect” distribution of aid — linked to changes in support payments for subsidy cuts — that has led to long queues in freezing temperatures for food baskets.

Rouhani’s Problems with Food for Iranians

On the nuclear front, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif expressed confidence that a comprehensive agreement with the 5+1 Powers can be reached by July 20, the date that the six-month interim deal ends.

First Vice President Eshagh Jahangiri had another explanation for opposition to the Government, “We have taken important steps in foreign policy and the current opposition stems more from jealousy.”

(Hat tip to Iran Tracker)

Rouhani: Head of State TV Tried to Prevent My Live Broadcast

The President eventually made it on air:


Kerry Blasts Trip by French Business Executives to Iran

Secretary of State John Kerry has maintained Washington’s “Iran is Not Open for Business” line, telling French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius that a trip to Tehran by French executives was “not helpful”.

Iran welcomed more than 100 executives on Monday in the most senior French trade mission in years.

“Secretary Kerry has talked directly to Foreign Minister Fabius about the trade delegation…about how this is not helpful,” Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman told US lawmakers in Washington on Tuesday. “Tehran is not open for business because our sanctions relief is quite temporary, quite limited and quite targeted.”

The interim nuclear deal between Iran and the 5+1 Powers, implemented from January 20, provides for a start to limited relief of sanctions on Tehran.

However, senior American officials have been touring foreign countries, including Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, to say that businesses should not re-establish trade and investment links during the six-month period and should await a comprehensive deal.

Leading Political Scientist Zibakalam Interrogated Over Criticism of Nuclear Program

Tehran University Professor Sadegh Zibakalam, one of Iran’s leading political scientists and a prominent analyst in international media, has been summoned for interrogation over remarks criticizing Iran’s nuclear program.

Swedish Foreign Minister Visits Tehran

Following his visit to Tehran, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt took to Twitter to report on his meetings with President Rouhani. Some of Bildt’s were subequently retweeted by Rouhani’s official English-language Twitter account, including those referring to the president’s policy of engagement with western countries, human rights and the nuclear issue.

Interestingly, Rouhani’s account did not retweet Bildt’s observation that both Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif are on Twitter despite restrictions imposed on the general Iranian population.

MP Criticises FM Zarif Over Alleged Israel Comments

Bojnord MP, Ghasem Jafari, has criticised Foreign Minister Javad Zarif over comments he allegedly made regarding the recognition of Israel.

Jafari, a principlist politician, said “Zarif’s remark are inconsistent with the principles upheld by the system, since Imam Khomeini (RA) believed that the Zionist regime was a malign tumor and the Leader believed it as ‘bastard.'”

He added, “the Islamic Republic has expended great sums so that the Zionist regime would not be recognized.”

Jafari was referring to an interview with German TV during which Zarif allegedly suggested “After the problem with the Palestinians is resolved, the conditions that will enable recognition of the State of Israel will be established.”

“If the Palestinians are happy with the solution, then nobody — nobody — could prevent that from happening,” Zarif added.

On Monday, however, Fars News declared that

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hassan Qashqavi rejected the media reports about Zarif’s statements as untrue, and said, “In a phone conversation that I had with Mr. Zarif he completely rejected the remarks attributed to him and declared that the Islamic Republic’s stance about the (Zionist) regime is what has been repeatedly announced by the country’s diplomacy apparatus and this stance has not changed.”

Second Phase Of Subsidy Reform to Begin in June

Parliament approved a bill on Tuesday that will see the government implement a second phase study of the subsidy reform plan on June 22.

According to Mehr News, “the subsidy reform plan pays 45,500 rials (about $18 based on the U.S. dollar official exchange rate of 24,800 rials) to Iranians, eliminating subsidies for fuels and some commodities.”

Since October the government and parliament have been working on cutting the scale of cash subsidies, particularly to richer families.

Snow Storms a PR Opportunity for IRGC

The extremely cold weather and huge snow storms that has hit cities in the north of the country, in particular those close to the Caspian Sea, has created a PR opportunity for the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.

In a joint statement, 202 MPs thanked the IRGC for their relief efforts related to a widespread snow storm in eighteen provinces and urged increased aid to these areas.

Rasht MP Jabbar Kouchakinejad announced, “The situation in northern areas affected by snow have improved with the entrance of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and the Artesh.”

According to officials, on Tuesday around 500,000 people were left without electricity and gas due to the heavy snow. President Rouhani held an emergency meeting at the Interior Ministry to discuss measures to supervise relief assistance to the provinces.

(Hat tip to Iran Tracker)