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News | Majles Will Grill Ahmadinejad; Leader Hails 'Window of Opportunity'

by DAN GEIST

09 Mar 2012 05:50Comments

Press Roundup provides a selected summary of news from the Farsi and Arabic press and excerpts where the source is in English. Tehran Bureau has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy. Any views expressed are the authors' own. Please refer to the Media Guide to help put the stories in perspective. You can follow breaking news stories on our Twitter feed.

Iran Standard Time (IRST), GMT+3:30

AhmjadBahonar.jpg5:50 a.m., 19 Esfand/March 9 After many months of effort by a group of legislators to bring President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the Majles floor for questioning, it seems that that he will finally be obliged to appear before the Iranian parliament next Wednesday. The announcement was made by Deputy Majles Speaker Mohammad Reza Bahonar (seen here with Ahmadinejad). According to the semiofficial Mehr News Agency, the decision to compel the president to appear was made "after MPs were not convinced by the answers provided by the president's representatives at a meeting held to discuss the reasons behind irregularities by the administration." We've provided links for more detail on some of the many issues Mehr reports that Ahmadinejad will be asked to address:
The president is expected to answer questions about the administration's failure to fully disburse the funds allocated for the Tehran Metro, the failure to meet [the] economic growth target of 8 percent set for the Iranian calendar year of 1389 (ended on March 20, 2011), poor implementation of the subsidy reform plan, the president's alleged resistance to accept the Supreme Leader's decree to reinstate the intelligence minister [Heydar Moslehi], [the] president's remarks about the status of the Majlis, the failure to implement the law to establish the Sports and Youth Ministry and nominate the minister at the appointed time, the dismissal of the former foreign minister [Manouchehr Mottaki] while on a diplomatic mission in Senegal, the administration's poor performance in regard to cultural plans, and the president's support for the promotion of the Iranian school of thought instead of the Islamic school of thought and his support for the deviant current.

The "deviant current" -- also known as the "perverted group" -- is a reference to Ahmadinejad's chief of staff and close confidant Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei and Mashaei's inner circle, several of whom also hold positions in the Ahmadinejad administration. Many hardliners hold Mashaei responsible for the president's populist appeals to Iranian nationalism at the expense, they assert, of the state's Islamic identity.

In other news that the parliament is seeking to check the president, perhaps emboldened by the results of last week's elections which many interpreted as weakening Ahmadinejad's hand, Mehr reports that the Majles

has approved a proposal which calls for the removal of the president from the general assembly of representatives of shareholders of major companies affiliated with the Oil Ministry, including the National Iranian Oil Company.

Of the 195 MPs present for the Majlis session on Wednesday, 131 lawmakers voted in favor of the proposal, one voted against it, and 7 abstained.

According to the new law, the oil minister will replace the president as the chairman of the general assembly, who is accountable for the performance of the National Iranian Oil Company.

Last May, Ahmadinejad named himself interim oil minister, only to be thwarted by Iran's 12-member Guardian Council, which has oversight of many constitutional and political matters.

***

Reuters reports on statements made by Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as conveyed by IRNA, the state news agency:

Khamenei has described comments by the US president, Barack Obama, about the need to dampen the drumbeat of war as a diplomatic "window of opportunity" [...]

"We heard two days ago that the US president said that [they] are not thinking about war with Iran. These words are good words and an exit from delusion," Khamenei was quoted as saying.

However, the supreme leader said Obama had also spoken about "bringing the Iranian people to their knees through sanctions", adding: "This part of his comments shows that the illusion continues."

Obama has never, in fact, spoken of "bringing the Iranian people to their knees through sanctions." Perhaps the closest he has come was in his remarks this past Sunday to the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC): "[I]n 2010 the U.N. Security Council overwhelmingly supported a comprehensive sanctions effort. Few thought that sanctions could have an immediate bite on the Iranian regime. They have, slowing the Iranian nuclear program and virtually grinding the Iranian economy to a halt in 2011."

At a White House press conference Tuesday afternoon, Obama spoke about the impact of sanctions and how they are part of a broader approach meant to avert war if possible: "[B]ecause sanctions are starting to have significant effect inside of Iran -- and that's not just my assessment, that's, I think, a uniform assessment -- because the sanctions are going to be even tougher in the coming months, because they're now starting to affect their oil industry, their central bank, and because we're now seeing noises about them returning to the negotiating table [...] it is deeply in everybody's interests -- the United States, Israel, and the world's -- to see if this can be resolved in a peaceful fashion."

Obama's remarks, again from his press conference, to which Khamenei responded positively were evidently these: "Well, I think there's no doubt that those who are suggesting, or proposing, or beating the drums of war should explain clearly to the American people what they think the costs and benefits would be. I'm not one of those people -- because what I've said is, is that we have a window through which we can resolve this issue peacefully. We have put forward an international framework that is applying unprecedented pressure. The Iranians just stated that they are willing to return to the negotiating table. And we've got the opportunity, even as we maintain that pressure, to see how it plays out."

Copyright © 2012 Tehran Bureau

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