UPDATE 1115 GMT: The Iranian Parliament has removed Economy Minister Masoud Karbasian.
The vote for dismissal was 137-121. Critics accused Karbasian of inability to manage teconomic affairs, failure to implement policies for bolstering the Supreme Leader’s “Resistance Economy”, lack of proper supervision of financial transactions, and inability to promote economic transparency.
Karbasian replied with a reference to US sanctions — “Problems were created after the United States ceased to respect its commitments”— but also implicitly spoke of interventions by the Supreme Leader’s office and the Revolutionary Guards: “Some of Iran’s economic problems have occurred in areas not under the administration’s control.”
Earlier this month the Majlis voted out Labor Minister Ali Rabiei.
Continuing the toughening of his rhetoric amid pressure from Iran’s hardliners, President Hassan Rouhani has declared that economic problems are an “enemy plot”.
Rouhani said on Saturday in ceremonies at the mausoleum of the Islamic Republic’s founder Ayatollah Khomeini: “Today is one of the difficult and hard days for Iran against foreign conspiracies, but the path of the late Imam can save the people and the country.”
Long shaken by internal issues and US-led sanctions, Iran’s economy has been further weakened this year by the prospect of comprehensive American restrictions, following the Trump Administration’s withdrawal in May from the 2015 nuclear deal. Production, trade, and investment are all under threat; inflation, which had been brought down from more than 40% to single digits, is rising again; and the Iranian rial has fallen 60% against the US dollar. There have been ongoing protests over wages, working conditions, and prices, with demonstrations across the nation in January and in July.
Hardliners have accused the Rouhani Government of failing to handle the crisis. Threatened with removal last month — including by the Supreme Leader’s office — Rouhani sharpened his denunciations of the US, buying himself some time. Nevertheless, Parliament removed the Labor Minister earlier this month, and the Economy Minister is facing questions and possible reprimand this week.
On Saturday, Rouhani invoked Ayatollah Khomeini to call for an end to in-fighting and an approach of unity:
If our late Imam did not have hope, he couldn’t endure 10 months of confinement with high spirits and if he wasn’t hopeful, he couldn’t take 14 years of exile….
We must stand together in tackling problems and conspiracies of the enemies….Without a doubt, we will be able to overcome all issues by unity and solidarity.
The President concluded with his assertion of “no doubt about final victory over the enemy: “As we were able to neutralize the Zionist lobby in the Senate and US House of Representatives, we can also neutralize US plots in the United Nations Security Council hall and clear their allegations against Iran in the world’s public opinion.”