Amid growing economic pressure and the looming threat of an oil embargo imposed by the United States, President Hassan Rouhani has rejected calls to step down and insisted on unity against growing US pressure.
“If anyone thinks the administration will resign, they are mistaken,” Rouhani said during a speech June 27 at a meeting of administration officials. Rouhani stressed the need to work with parliament and other officials, saying, “We have to show the world that we can tolerate the difficulties and the problems and we will not trade away our independence, we will not trade away our freedom, we will not trade away our Islamic system, but we will tolerate the difficulties, standing alongside one another.”
He continued, “We cannot stand up to America and yet continue our domestic fights. For one person to say the nuclear deal was good and another to say it was bad … is this really the time?”
Speaking philosophically, Rouhani said that Iran has three choices in how it responds to the US violation of the nuclear deal and the imposition of sanctions, including an oil embargo, which the US State Department has sought from all countries starting in November. The first option is to submit to the United States and do exactly as the Donald Trump administration demands, which was outlined in US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s 12 demands. The second option is to stand up to America but continue domestic quarrels. The third option is to stand up to America, protect “our honor and bring America to its knees.”
Conservative officials, who have been critical of the president’s policies in the past, have mostly struck conciliatory tones in response and have vowed to work with the president in addressing economic issues.
Former Iranian parliamentarian Alireza Zakani, who is currently the president of the special commission for the nuclear deal, said Rouhani’s speech was the “rightful voice of the Iranian nation.” He said Rouhani’s approach to fixing the economy was “a source of hope,” and he urged all of the country’s elites, especially the country’s ministers, to stand up against “America’s excessive demands.”
Iranian parliament member Mohammad Dehghan, who is deputy president of the Velayat fraction of parliament, said Rouhani’s speech was “positive.” He said that if the president follows up on his speech with actions, “certainly we will support him.” Hossein Naghavi Hosseini, a conservative Iranian parliament member, had a similar response, saying he welcomed the president’s speech but hoped the president would take concrete actions. “The situation of the country today is that slogans and propaganda have no place. … The arena is an arena of action, and statements must take an aspect of implementation and operation.”
Not all Iranian officials, however, were on board with Rouhani’s message of unity. Saeed Jalili, a former nuclear negotiator who was skeptical of the administration’s nuclear deal, argued that many of the mechanisms to evade sanctions have either been weakened or completely shut down. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif made similar comments to business executives at Iran’s Chamber of Commerce earlier. “The Americans have identified our respiratory tract,” he said, discussing sanctions evasion and the arrests of Reza Zarrab and Ali Sadr Hashemi Nejad.
While Rouhani stressed unity, he faces a number of economic troubles at home. One-hundred and seven parliamentarians signed a letter urging the president to change his economic team. Seventy parliamentarians signed a letter asking the Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani to question Rouhani about the economy, specifically the exchange rate.