PHOTO: Tehran Friday Prayer Leader — “Opening Up to the World Will Bring Iran Back to Time of Shah”

Iran’s clerics, guided by the Supreme Leader’s office, have supported the Revolutionary Guards in a fight with President Rouhani over foreign investment.

Friday Prayer leaders across the country implicitly chided Rouhani for his foreign policy of engagement, rejecting the political and economic “openness” with the US and its allies.

In Tehran, Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi criticized “those individuals who want to open Iran up to the world and believe that we cannot live without the US”. He linked Rouhani to the Shah who was toppled by the 1979 Islamic Revolution, saying that “opening up to the world will bring Iran back to the time of the Qajars and the Pahlavis”.

The Revolutionary Guards are wary of Rouhani’s attempts to bring in foreign investement for Iran’s economic recovery, following the implementation of the July 2015 nuclear deal. The Guards have extensive economic interests, including in the Iranian oil and gas sector, which could be challenged by foreign firms.

On Monday the Guards commander, Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, launched a new challenge to Rouhani. He said that “some officials” have “conflicting views” with the Supreme Leader because they are “looking outwards” for “solutions to the country’s problems”.

Rouhani responded on Thursday:

Some think that when we say “constructive interaction”, we mean sitting down with Westerners and Europeans and smiling at them, or talking with them, or dining with them. It isn’t so.

Constructive interaction means establishing appropriate relations with the international community for exports, youth employment, and the easier import of capital goods and raw material.

Can any country say today that it has progressed without relations with the world?

“Interacting With Enemy Makes No Sense”

Although they did not name Rouhani, the Friday prayer leaders were clear in their rejection of the President.

In Mashhad, Ayatollah Ahmad Alamolhoda used Rouhani’s phrase “constructive interaction” to accuse the President of pursuing links with Washington.

The enemy is the enemy, and interacting with the enemy makes no sense.

They say that without constructive interaction with the world, we cannot grow our exports, we cannot have economic development….They have replaced the noun “America” with “world” and its constructive engagement!

In Esfahan, Hojatoleslam Mojtaba Mirdamadi said government officials are “wrong to think that interacting with the U.S. will solve the problems of the country”.

And in Shahrekord, Mohammad Ali Nekounam declared that the US is trying to establish the links with Iran to undermine the Islamic Republic, as it introduces “influence to the country”.

Rouhani and the Revolutionary Guards have regularly clashed since the President’s inauguration in August 2013, with the Supreme Leader taking sides for what he sees as necessary lines of policy.

Ayatollah Khamenei supported the President in the continuation of nuclear talks with the US and other powers, shutting down criticism by the Guards, including its commander Jafari.

However, since the January implementation of the deal, Khamenei has led denunciation of the US for not fulfilling the terms. Drawing a line on Rouhani’s engagement, the Supreme Leader has said there can be no talks with the US outside of the nuclear agreement.

(Hat tip to Iran Tracker for translations)