Domestic, international pressure chokes Tehran

Domestic, international pressure chokes Tehran

Domestic, international pressure chokes Tehran

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei leads Friday prayers as Iranian President Ahmadinejad (C), Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani (4th L) perform the prayers at Tehran University. AFP photo

Iran’s Parliament yesterday decided to summon President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for questioning over a long list of accusations including mismanagement of the nation’s economy.

The summons was the first of its kind for an Iranian president since 1979. It followed a petition by a group of lawmakers for a review of policy decisions by Ahmadinejad, who has come under increasing attacks in recent months from the same hard-liners who brought him to power.

It is also part of a power struggle on the Iranian political scene ahead of March 2 parliamentary elections and the 2013 presidential vote. Mohammad Reza Bahnoar, Parliament deputy speaker, said lawmakers have demanded Ahmadinejad to answer a slew of questions on the economy. He is also to be queried about foreign and domestic policy decisions. Under Iranian law, he has to appear in Parliament before the end of one month.

Ahmadinejad will also be asked why he “hesitated for 11 days” to act on a demand of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to reinstate Intelligence Minister Heidar Moslehi, who was sacked by Ahmadinejad in 2011, and to elaborate on his snap dismissal of former Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki during a trip to Africa. The power struggle has pitted Ahmadinejad against Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters in Iran.

‘New sanctions are psychological war’

Other questions that will be put to the president include those about Iran’s slacking economic growth and why his administration failed to promote the Islamic dress code that calls for women to wear the traditional veil.

According to the statement, Ahmadinejad is also to explain his ties to Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, whose daughter is married to the president’s son, the Associated Press reported. Ahmadinejad’s opponents contend he is trying to push Mashei for president after his own term expires next year.

Aside from domestic problems, Iran has dismissed new U.S. sanctions on Tehran, with the Foreign Ministry spokesman saying yesterday they were part of a “psychological war” meant to sow discontent among Iranians and insisted the measures would not halt the country’s nuclear program.

Washington ordered the new penalties Feb. 6, giving U.S. banks additional powers to freeze assets linked to the Iranian government and close loopholes that officials say Iran has used to move money despite earlier restrictions imposed by the United States and Europe.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told reporters in Tehran the penalties were just “propaganda.”

“Many of these [U.S.] activities are in the sphere of psychological war and propaganda, and they cannot affect our work,” he said.

In response to those, Iran’s Parliament said it was ready to impose a ban on oil exports to some European states and the oil minister placed a ban on licenses for foreign companies wishing to develop domestic petrochemical projects in Iran, Mehr news agency reported.

Rostam Qasemi has ordered the National Iranian Oil Production and Distribution Company to cease business with foreign companies involved in Iran’s refinery sector and to benefit from local expertise and nationally-produced technology.