Iran’s minister of communications and information technology is continuing to criticize unelected governmental bodies for their attempts to block social media and messaging services.
Iran’s judiciary shut down Telegram, a popular messaging service with approximately 40 million users in Iran, after conservative officials complained that national security vulnerabilities had been introduced by the Telegram servers and that the user information of tens of millions of Iranians was being stored outside of the country. The communications minister, Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi, who has championed a more open online environment, said Iranians will use virtual private networks to bypass the current blocks on Telegram, thus creating more serious security challenges.
The blocking of Telegram is not the only obstacle hindering the efforts of the administration of President Hassan Rouhani. Following a parliamentary report on dual nationals working within government institutions, Iran’s Intelligence Ministry has written an open letter defending its monitoring of dual nationals. The issue has become a hot topic once again in conservative media outlets.
The “Final Report on the Investigation of the Status of Dual Nationals” was issued by Iran’s influential and powerful National Security and Foreign Policy commission headed by Alaeddin Borujerdi. The Intelligence Ministry letter was addressed to Borujerdi and attempted to clear the air about the ministry’s name in tracking and monitoring the 210 identified dual nationals working in various sectors of the government, including institutions run by the Rouhani administration. The letter addressed several points and requested that the report be corrected.
The letter also addressed the politicization of the issue. The Intelligence Ministry, which vets those hired by the administration, is run by the administration. Borujerdi, a conservative politician, has long been a critic of the administration. He was also one of the first politicians to voice the need to block Telegram in the country, just days before the judicial decision, suggesting that he may have been informed of the decision in advance.
Despite the possible collapse of his signature foreign policy achievement, Rouhani has attempted to put on a brave face. He has been on the defensive ever since President Donald Trump announced that the United States will withdraw from the nuclear deal. Rouhani has sent Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, to Russia, China and Europe to see whether Iran can salvage the agreement.
In his latest speech, Rouhani said Iran would not respond to “pressure, sanctions, threats or even signs of war.” He said Iran will still try to resolve the nuclear issue through negotiations and diplomacy. According to Rouhani, many of Iran’s goals were achieved through the 2015 nuclear deal, including the recognition of Iran’s right to nuclear enrichment. On the removal of sanctions, Rouhani said that while Iran was not 100% successful in removing them, an 80% success rate is worth preserving.