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Iran MPs fire Finance as woes mount – US accused of waging psychological war

File Photo: Iran’s Minister of Economic Affairs and Finance Masoud Karbasian – AFP

TEHRAN, Aug 26, (Agencies): Iran’s parliament impeached Economy Minister Masoud Karbasian on Sunday in the latest blow to embattled President Hassan Rouhani as he struggles to face down a mounting economic crisis. Karbasian is the second cabinet minister to be sacked this month, following the impeachment of Labour Minister Ali Rabiei on Aug 8. Critics say the government squandered the opportunities presented by the 2015 nuclear deal and have failed to tackle high rates of infl ation and joblessness.

With the United States abandoning the nuclear deal in May and reimposing sanctions, Rouhani’s hopes of attracting vast sums of foreign investment appear dead in the water. Major European firms, including France’s Total, Peugeot and Renault, and Germany’s Siemens and Daimler, have all announced their departure since the US announcement. Rouhani’s conservative opponents – who long-opposed his outreach to the West and efforts to improve civil liberties – say the primary blame lies with government corruption and mismanagement.

“Inefficiency and lack of planning have nothing to do with sanctions,” said one lawmaker, Abbas Payizadeh, in a speech ahead of the vote. “Wrong decisions have harmed the people and led to individuals looting public assets,” he added. Rouhani, a political moderate, can still count on the support of a sizeable reformist bloc in parliament, but even some of its key figures have grown disillusioned. “What have we done with this nation? We made them miserable and wretched,” said Elias Hazrati, of the reformist Hope faction in parliament. “The middle class are moving towards poverty,” added Hazrati, who broke ranks to vote in favour of the impeachment.

Karbasian lost the vote of confidence, which was carried live on state radio, by 137 votes to 121, with two abstentions. The outcome sees him stripped of his post with immediate effect, leaving Rouhani to pick a replacement. Hazrati said the government had failed to plan for the real pain of sanctions, which will hit when a second phase of US measures is reintroduced in November targeting Iran’s crucial oil sector. “We haven’t been prepared and we are not prepared now,” said Hazrati.

“The only person we could get our hands on was the economy minister. Otherwise, the president should have been impeached,” he added. For now, Rouhani remains protected by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who said this month that removing the president would “play into the hands of the enemy”. But parliament has summoned the president for the first time to answer questions on the crisis, and he is expected to appear on Tuesday.

Psychological war
America is waging a psychological war against Iran and its business partners, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Sunday, according to the Tasnim news agency. “ focus is on a psychological war against Iran and its business partners,” Zarif said. President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers in May and is reimposing sanctions on Tehran.

Other parties to the accord are trying to find ways to save the agreement. Trump’s decision to withdraw from the accord has hurt the United States, Zarif said, according to the Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA). “From the time that Trump announced the withdrawal from the nuclear deal, America has not been able to reach its goals,” Zarif said.

Washington aims to force Tehran to end its nuclear program and its support of militant groups in Syria and Iraq. Zarif also said the nuclear deal has led to political confl ict within Iran. “There are some in the country who, instead of laying the groundwork for using the opportunities presented by the nuclear deal, chose a political fight,” Zarif said, according to ISNA. “And this political fight led to despair and disappointment.”

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