Soleimani described the external threat as “an invasion against the Islamic world,” while the internal threat was “religious sedition.” Given that the speech was in honor of World Mosque Day, Soleimani stressed the importance of mosques in combating both threats.
What made Soleimani’s speech unique was his inclusive position and his rejection of titles and labels to divide Iranians, particularly along religious lines. “Why do we constantly use labels such as ‘unveiled’ or ‘poorly veiled’ or ‘Reformist’ or ‘Principlist'?” Soleimani asked. “Who will then remain after that? All children are not the same, but it is the father who can gather them around each other. The Friday prayer leaders must be able to attract the veiled, poorly veiled and the unveiled.”
Soleimani has always steered clear of partisan quarrels, so his comments criticizing political labels are not surprising. However, what is noteworthy is his implicit admission that some younger Iranians do not attend Friday prayers. Furthermore, he placed responsibility on the clerical establishment for not being able to attract a wider and more diverse audience due to their obsessive focus on the veil.
Soleimani also discussed criticism of Iran’s involvement in Syria and Iraq. “Some at the highest levels, domestically and outside the country, told us to not enter Syria and Iraq,” he said, without mentioning specific names. Some have even said “we are defending a dictator,” he said. However, Soleimani said that Iran views its relations through its own interests rather than determine “if someone is a dictator or not.” Presumably, this was in reference to Iran’s involvement in Syria’s civil war.
Soleimani defended Iran’s involvement in Iraq in its battle against the Islamic State, as well as its support of Palestinian groups. “We do not differentiate between our interests and Iraq’s interests," he said, "and we were not after their oil wells or Mosul or Kirkuk and did not have territorial demands.” On the question of Palestine and whether Iran's support there is sectarian in nature, Soleimani said, “If someone [in Palestine] claims to be Shiite we have nothing to do with them because 99.99% of Palestine is Sunni and we defend them.”
In other news, President Hassan Rouhani received a vote of confidence for 16 of his 17 Cabinet positions. Some of the notable names returning to the Cabinet are Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh, Intelligence Minister Seyyed Mahmoud Alavi and Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli. One of the biggest changes is the new defense minister, Amir Hatami, who received 261 confirmation votes out of 288 total. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appointed the previous defense minister, Hossein Dehghan, as an adviser to Iran’s defense industries. The only proposed Cabinet minister to not receive adequate votes for confirmation was Habibollah Bitaraf, for the energy minister position.
In his first Cabinet meeting of his second term, Rouhani said, “We do not have a higher priority than production and employment, and economic transformation is not possible without coordination and attracting investment and technology.”