Iran Daily: Ahmadinejad Calls on Government to Quit

Iran's former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addresses supporters near Tehran, November 2017 (ISNA)

Hoping to capitalize on nationwide protests over Iran’s economic problems, former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called on the Rouhani Government to step down.

Ahmadinejad, President from 2005 to 2013, left office amid widespread criticism. Often at odds with the Supreme Leader and regime factions such as the Revolutionary Guards, he was blamed for mismanagement that fed Iran’s economic difficulties, including an inflation rate of more than 40% and billions of dollars lost to embezzlement and corruption.

He and his allies were blocked from running for the Presidency in 2017, and the regime — including the Supreme Leader’s office — continued to warn that his public declarations were unacceptable, even though Ahmadinejad remained a member of the Expediency Council.

With the recurrence of crisis, including a 60% fall in the Iranian currency and expanding US sanctions, Ahmadinejad has seized an opportunity. In a video message posted on his Telegram channel, he told President Hassan Rouhani, “The nation does not accept you; how else could they make that clear? Your continued presence is at the expense of the country.”

Ahmadinejad also sought the departure of Speaker of the Parliament Ali Larijani and judiciary head Sadegh Larijani, having clashed with the brothers throughout his Presidency. He asserted that Iranians are “completely frustrated” as authorities “lie to their face”: “the best way to achieve [an end to discontent] is probably stepping down.”

The President’s recent campaign was marked by a speech on May 31 in which he implicitly included the Supreme Leader among his targets: “We don’t want to [point fingers at] anyone as guilty because all of the officials in the country approved [the 2015 nuclear deal].”

At the end of June, amid protests in Tehran’s Grand Bazaar, Ahmadinejad called on the leaders of the three branches to quit and offered himself as the alternative, “[We] can change the situation with three or four simple decisions. But if we wait too long, it becomes more difficult.” Two weeks ago, he told a crowd in northeastern Iran that he would immediately triple Iran’s universal basic income.

Rouhani appealed on Monday for public support in a televised interview, but faces growing pressure from within the regime. MPs dismissed the Labor Minister this week, and the Assembly of Experts called on the President to replace other Cabinet members.

The Tehran Friday Prayer leader, Ayatollah Mohammad Emami Kashani gave Rouhani a bit of space, preferring to attack the US over Monday’s imposition of sanctions by Washington.

“The US has pinned all its hopes on the issue that it would put pressure on Iran for the negotiation,” Emami Kashani said. “Iran would never bear the burden of such a negotiation that they are seeking.”

Meanwhile, in the latest sign of protest, football fans in Tehran’s Azadi Stadium chanted against the regime, including the shouts “Guns, tanks, fireworks, the clerics must get lost!” and “Death to the Dictator”:

State broadcaster IRIB muted audio of the match, blaming “network disruption”, and avoided shots of the crowd.

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Scott Lucas is Professor of International Politics at the University of Birmingham and editor-in-chief of EA WorldView. He is a specialist in US and British foreign policy and international relations, especially the Middle East and Iran. Formerly he worked as a journalist in the US, writing for newspapers including the Guardian and The Independent and was an essayist for The New Statesman before he founded EA WorldView in November 2008.

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