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Leading Legislator Resigns after Plan to Grill President Denied

15 Oct 2011 08:15Comments

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. 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

MotahariWalking.jpg8:15 a.m., 23 Mehr/October 15 Our columnist Muhammad Sahimi compiled the following news items and commentary:
Three weeks ago, conservative Majles deputy Ali Motahari, a prominent critic of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, threatened to resign if the proposal that he and a group of other deputies submitted to question and possibly impeach the president did not move forward. He finally went ahead and resigned to protest the refusal of the parliament's leadership to consider the proposal to grill Ahmadinejad. In his letter of resignation to Majles Speaker Ali Larijani, Motahari recounts what took place:

The plan to question the president was submitted to the Majles and was officially received by [Deputy Speaker] Mohammad Reza Bahonar, who was presiding that day. The day after it was submitted, the leadership asked some deputies to try to convince the signatories of the plan to withdraw their support. Then another deputy announced publicly that the leadership was opposed to the plan. I then wrote a confidential letter to you [Larijani] and asked you to stop what the leadership was doing, which [happened]. Fourteen deputies withdrew their support, but only because they thought that the timing was not right. The 14 deputies believe that now is the right time to bring up the issue of questioning the president. The leadership agreed to bring up the issue after some time, but has not done so.

Motahari then asks,

When the president explicitly says that he will not execute certain legislation, can we not pose even one question?... Some people say that the Supreme Leader is opposed to the questioning. I am not sure about this. If he is, he should announce so publicly. He has no hidden issue with the nation.... Since the leadership of the Majles is still preventing the plan, and because the Majles cannot carry out its duties [under these circumstances], I announce my resignation as a representative of Tehran, Rey, Eslamshahr, and Shemiranat because I cannot defend the nation's rights."

Alaeddin Boroujerdi, chairman of the parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, declared that a deputy cannot resign by himself. A resignation request must be filed and put to a Majles vote. Legislators who back Ahmadinejad, however, are happy with the resignation and have asked the Majles to approve it.

Reaction by members of the Majles leadership to Motahari's resignation letter has been somewhat contradictory. Mohammad Hossein Farhangi called it "propaganda." Mohammad Dehghan said, "Mr. Motahari has unofficially submitted to me his letter of resignation. But, legally, so long as he has not submitted it to the speaker, the letter of resignation is not official."

In an indirect reference to Motahari, Ahmad Alam ol-Hoda, the Mashhad Friday Prayer Imam, said, "Some people in the Majles are trying to question the government in the Majles due to minor and unimportant problems. They constantly agitate the people. They must be told that the people did not elect you [to raise] useless and agitative problems."

During a speech in the western city of Kermanshah near the Iraqi border, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei threatened the opposition and (implicitly) Ahmadinejad. He spoke about those who want to create "deviations" in the Islamic Revolution, and said of Iran's national militia, "The Basij has a role in the general direction of the Revolution and the Islamic system that transcends time, and if there is any deviation in it, the Basij will confront it."

Meanwhile, Seyyed Ali, a website specifically dedicated to Khamenei's trip to Kermanshah, said that his absence from Tehran may allow a large earthquake to occur in the capital. In response, Dr. Mehdi Khazali, a critic of the hardliners and a son of the reactionary Ayatollah Abolghasem Khazali, suggested that the website should be blocked because it "feeds the people with superstitions and trash talking."

Iran's conservative media outlets been reporting on the doubts raised by many in the West regarding the allegations that the Islamic Republic masterminded a plot to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador in Washington, D.C. See here, here, here, here, here, here,
and here. The reformist media has remained largely silent on the matter.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that there has been at least one direct contact between Iran and the United States regarding the allegations. An anonymous U.S. official said the contact was made through Iran's United Nations mission in New York. The Iranian mission, however, issued a denial. "There has been no direct contact between the two countries," Ali Reza Miryousefi, the press officer at the mission, told Mehr News Agency in Tehran.

One of the strangest claims related to the alleged plot has been made by Al-Arabiya, the nominally independent website that reflects the views of the Saudi Arabian monarchy. Quoting unnamed sources, the website claimed that not only was Mahmoud Ahmadinejad aware of the plot, but that he had planned it himself. According to the claim, the Iranian president suggested to Khamenei that terrorist operations be authorized outside Iran to neutralize the effect of the Arab Spring on Iran and prevent the toppling of the Islamic Republic. The goal, according to Al-Arabiya, was to carry out the terrorist acts and then present them as a result of "Islamic awakening" by the masses that Iranian officials have been talking about. The claim is in sharp contrast with the view of many Iran analysts that Ahmadinejad wishes to improve Iranian relations with the United States to benefit his own position in the domestic political realm.

Hossein Amir Abdolahian, deputy foreign minister for Arab and African affairs, met with Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Iran on Wednesday. He strongly denied the allegations against Iran and called them baseless, and said that even many in the West believe that the allegations are false.

In a conference in London on Wednesday, Prince Turki al-Faisal, Saudi Arabia's former ambassador to Washington and former head of the Saudi intelligence service, said, "The burden of proof and the amount of evidence in the case is overwhelming and clearly shows official Iranian responsibility for this. This is unacceptable. Somebody in Iran will have to pay the price." In a New York Times op-ed piece, al-Faisal had suggested that the United States not veto Palestinians' bid for full recognition by the United Nations, so that the U.S. and Saudi Arabia could together confront Iran.

The volume of criticism of the Ahmadinejad administration in the Majles has been growing again. Mousa'al Reza Sarvati said that parliament is ignoring the government's violations of the law. He pointed to the current $15 billion shortfall in the budget that was approved and sourced by the Majles for cash handouts to substitute for eliminated food and energy subsidies. Sarvati also observed that the administration has taken out about $4.5 billion from the Central Bank, without depositing a like amount, available from oil exports, into the treasury.

In an unprecedented speech to the Majles, Mohsen Nariman, the reformist deputy from Babol, demanded the removal of Ahmadinejad from the presidency, after the Supreme Court verifies that he has not done his duties and has violated the laws. He also demanded revisions to the Constitution, and end to the house arrest of Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi (though he did not name them), and "opening the green way of national reconciliation."

Hassan Zamani, Speaker Larijani's chief of staff, said that a lawsuit has been filed against Majles deputy Hamid Rasaei, a hardline cleric and strong Ahmadinejad supporter, who publishes the weekly 9 Dey. Zamani said, "We have repeatedly witnessed insults spreading insults [by Rasaei] against Larijani. He have asked him repeatedly to stop, but unfortunately, instead of stopping it, he has expanded on it."

In a meeting with staff of the ideological division of the Ministry of Defense, reactionary cleric Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi, once an ardent supporter of Ahmadinejad, made statements widely interpreted as jabs at the president. Mesbah Yazdi declared, "A weakness of the human being is that after some time he forgets what has happened and God's mercy and kindness to him." He then pointed out that some pious revolutionaries of the early years of Revolution have changed their path, saying, "These people began thinking that we cannot fight with the United States forever, and we must negotiate and solve the problems, and based on this they gradually introduced politics without 'death to America' [as the main slogan]."

Mohammad Attarian, member of the Supreme Council for Employment, said that the rate of unemployment may well reach 20 percent by the end of the Iranian year (March 20, 2012). He predicted that this will happen if the government does not pay the subsidies to industrial units that it is supposed to. According to Attarian, the government owes about $13 billion to the industry.

Copyright © 2011 Tehran Bureau

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