Criticizing Is Not the Parliament’s Sole Responsibility
The editorial of Arman Melli, written by reformist academic Sadegh Zibakalam, argues that Iranian lawmakers keep reiterating their criticisms against the government regarding poor economic conditions, without coming up with any suggestions for resolving the problems.
The lawmakers’ objections to Ebrahim Raisi’s ministers, particularly the labor minister, shows that the so-called “principlists,” i.e., “hardline ultra-conservatives” in Iran, have no plans, agenda or roadmap for the country’s economy. Obviously, if they had any plans, its outcomes would have appeared by now.
The truth is objections and criticisms against the government for economic issues and problems are justified in a sense: during the past few months of Raisi’s tenure, there have been no changes in the country’s economy. So, the lawmakers are right in saying that no change has occurred in the economy. Of course, not only has there been no change, but inflation has also risen, prices have increased, and there are more shortcomings.
But more importantly is this question: what solution does the 11th Parliament have for proposing to the government? More simply, the lawmakers do not offer any practical solutions to Raisi’s government.
In fact, the lawmakers’ only skill is reiterating criticisms, and nothing more. Neither during Hassan Rouhani’s government, nor during Raisi’s have the lawmakers proposed any plans. By simply criticizing and threatening to impeach this or that minister, they cannot create a good record for themselves. The Parliament’s performance has been nothing but political propaganda and has had no other positive impact at all.
Instead of meaningless slogans and empty rhetoric, the Parliament must propose solutions. As a matter of fact, the lawmakers do nothing but chant slogans. When the government cannot export oil, and even if it is exported, the revenues cannot return to the country due to US sanctions, when because of flawed agricultural policies, Iran is exporting poisonous agricultural produce instead of safe vegetables and fruits, what can Raisi’s government do?
So, in a sense the Parliament is right about no changes or improvements in the country’s economy, but what the lawmakers do not say – or do not want to say – is that it is not possible to create changes and improvements in the country’s economy without making any alterations in the country’s large-scale policies.
We Must Think of the People
The editorial of Arman Melli underscores that the Iranian government must have a clear vision of the future and share it with the people so that they can expect future improvements in their lives.
When we listen to lawmakers’ talks in the Parliament, they mostly talk about people’s economic concerns and people’s tables. Some lawmakers have complaints about automobile prices and the Parliament’s Article 90 Commission had summoned the CEOs of two auto factories for a hearing. This shows that prices have not been properly controlled by the ministries, which is concerning.
The other issue that is raised by lawmakers is employment and joblessness. Moreover, these days there is the issue of retirees’ protests, strikes and peaceful assemblies, who are demanding an increase in their pensions which are well below the poverty line. Teachers, too, held protests all over the country in recent weeks regarding their salaries and benefits.
All the aforementioned issues indicate that there is a need for a clear strategy which must be shared with the people so they know that the same concerns exist among the authorities.
People need to have a clear roadmap so they can plan for the future. So, we must be really concerned about the people, their lives, their tables, their economy, and their livelihood.
The Benefits of Both Sides From the JCPOA
The editorial of Arman Melli reviews the landscape of the talks for reviving the nuclear deal (JCPOA) and the possibility of reaching an agreement between Iran and the United States.
Today, the nuclear talks and reaching an agreement have become an issue between Iran and America, and an agreement between these two might end up in reviving the JCPOA. Obviously, after Iran accepted to use the document which was agreed upon during Hassan Rouhani’s government as the basis for talks, there is more hope for reaching an agreement.
Therefore, Iran has agreed to cooperate with the IAEA. Of course, it is still too early to talk with certainty about reaching an agreement, as the stance of the Americans has changed, and the Iranians have more expectations. So, we should wait and see to what extent the US government is ready to lift the sanctions and how far Iran is ready to return to its obligations under the JCPOA.
This is what both sides have to agree upon, and so it is too early to say whether at the end of the talks, they will reach a broad, maximum agreement or just a minimum agreement.
With Biden taking office, the positions of Europe and America have drawn closer, having almost similar positions about returning to the JCPOA. On the other hand, the Russians and Chinese are after their own interests and want to take charge of Iran’s position so that they themselves make a deal with America. So, China and Russia are after their own interests and will make a deal with the United States over Iran.
On the other hand, there does not seem to be any agreement between America and Israel over controlling Iran’s nuclear program. The differences between America and Israel center around the scope of the agreement. The Israelis perhaps want America not to merely reach an agreement over the nuclear issue, but to pressure Iran to change its regional positions. But even though the Americans might be interested in this issue, they are now focused on Iran’s nuclear program and other issues are of lesser priority for them.
Evidently, to the Americans, Iran’s nuclear program is a security issue, but what has made Iran’s nuclear program sensitive is Iran’s other policies, particularly in the Middle East. That is why the Americans have prioritized alleviating the tensions over Iran’s nuclear activities. As a result, it is a US priority which will determine future dealings with Iran and its nuclear program.
The Correlation Between the JCPOA and the Price of Gasoline
The editorial of Arman Melli focuses on the related issues of reaching an agreement over Iran’s nuclear activities and raising the price of fuel in the country.
Iran’s economy is currently facing many uncertainties and difficulties. On the one hand, the structural reforms that should have taken place a long time ago did not happen for different reasons or excuses such as the conditions after the Iran-Iraq War, sanctions, mismanagement, and other reasons. So, no adequate attention was paid to the manufacturing industry and agriculture.
If Iranian automakers could produce high-quality cars, if the agricultural sector could use a proper irrigation system, if construction in the cities was undertaken without wasting resources, then today the country would face no energy crisis, water crisis, and the crisis of incompetence plaguing many sectors. Even the budget was going to be drafted based on the performance of past years, but this too did not happen. So, Iran is facing many accumulated problems.
On the other hand, there is the international problem of Iran’s nuclear case. As a result of Trump’s hard hit on Iran’s economy in 2018, there has been no proper economic growth in Iran. Iran has spent half of the past decade under sanctions and has spent the rest suffering from their impact.
So, Iran’s economic problems have been due to both flawed domestic and foreign policy. Today, Iran has reached the point where it must balance the budget deficit with wasting energy resources. Once again, it is turning to increasing the price of oil products, while it is engaged in the nuclear talks. It seems that tough decisions must be made, but before making them, people must be sufficiently persuaded of the validity of those decisions.
Since 2010 when the issue of targeted subsidies [cash subsidies paid directly to people] was raised, only one change has been made which was the increase in the price of fuel. Along with targeted subsidies, public transportation was supposed to expand and vehicular quality was expected to improve. But if we compare the quality of public transportation now with 2010, there is not much improvement in the big cities. People do not have easy access to the metro or public transportation.
This makes any decision-making regarding the fuel price and the nuclear deal very tough. So, without managing public expectations, any change in the fuel policy, particularly gasoline, will have dire consequences.
Iran Ordered to Pay $107 Million in Compensation to Six Families of the Victims of the Downed Ukrainian Flight
On the eve of the second anniversary of the downing of Ukrainian Airline Flight PS752 by IRGC missiles, Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice in Canada has called the downing of this flight “a terrorist, deliberate act.”
Judge Edward Belobaba in his verdict said that the plaintiffs proved that the downing of the Ukrainian flight was an act of “terrorism.”
The hearing was held to address the lawsuit of six families of the victims of Flight PS752, who were awarded $107 million in compensation.
In his verdict, Judge Belobaba stated that evidence and arguments provided by the plaintiffs and experts proved that the downing of the Ukrainian flight by IRGC missiles was a deliberate act.
The defendants in the lawsuit were Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, the IRGC, and some senior military officials such as Chief of Staff of Iran’s Armed Forces Mohammad Bagheri, Commander-in-Chief of the IRGC Hossein Salami, and Commander of the IRGC Aerospace Force Amir Ali Hajizadeh.
According to the verdict, the report of Canada’s intelligence minister at that time shows that Iran’s claim of “human error” in the downing of the flight is not correct. Canada’s federal government will soon release its findings regarding the downing of the Ukrainian flight.
In the early morning of January 8, 2020, Ukrainian Airlines Flight PS752 took off from Tehran International Airport but was shot down shortly after by two IRGC missiles. All 176 passengers, including 164 Iranians, were killed.
For a few days, Iranian authorities denied downing the Ukrainian flight, but after the release of images and evidence by some countries, they had to admit it.
138 victims of this incident were either dual citizens or permanent residents of Canada.
Canadian news agency CBC reported that according to the lawyers representing the families, they seek to confiscate the assets of the Iranian government in Canada and other countries, particularly Iranian oil tankers, in order to receive compensation.
Surge in Omicron Infections; Import of Coronavirus Vaccines Banned
Despite the surge in the number of Omicron infections all over the country, Ebrahim Raisi’s government has decided to ban the import of foreign vaccines, offering Iranian vaccines, the efficacy and reliability of which have not been proved.
The head of Jondi Shapur Medical Science University in Ahvaz has confirmed the first case of the Omicron variant in Khuzestan Province. Mohammad Hossein Sarmast added that Omicron has spread all over Khuzestan and the number of Omicron infections is doubling every two or three days.
Nevertheless, the COVID-19 map in Iran has not changed, and all cities of Khuzestan are still in the blue zone (i.e., out of danger).
A while ago, the head of Minoodasht Hospital in Golestan Province had confirmed a 40 percent increase in patients, mostly children, going to hospital with Omicron symptoms.
In the meantime, the head of Iran’s Food and Drug Organization Bahram Daraee has confirmed that the government has banned the import of coronavirus vaccines. This is the first time that such a ban has been announced during Ebrahim Raisi’s government, which considered expediting the import and administration of vaccines as one of its achievements in its first 100 days.
According to Daraee, currently Iran is not importing any vaccines from foreign countries and relies on domestic vaccines.
Deputy Health Minister Kamal Heydari said that domestic production of the coronavirus vaccine is “adequate,” so given the current economic situation in the country, the National Headquarters for Combatting Coronavirus has banned the import of coronavirus vaccines.
According to the latest statistics issued by the Iranian Health Ministry, the country’s population has mostly received the Chinese vaccine followed by the British-Swedish vaccine Astra Zeneca, while, at best, only 20 percent of administered vaccines are domestically manufactured.
There has been much propaganda about the manufacturing of coronavirus vaccines in Iran since the beginning of the pandemic. Allegedly, Iran is manufacturing eight coronavirus vaccines.
COVIran Barekat has been the leading vaccine manufactured in Iran through the Headquarters for Execution of Imam Khomeini’s Order under the aegis of Mohammad Mokhber, who is now Raisi’s first vice president.
No valid data exists regarding the efficacy of Iranian coronavirus vaccines.
More Leaks About the IRGC’s Influence Over Iran’s Foreign Policy
Ali Akbar Salehi, who was foreign minister during Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s government, has asserted that during the so-called “Arab Spring” this ministry acted in coordination with former IRGC Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani, and he also played a role in appointing several ambassadors in different countries. Soleimani was killed two years ago by American forces in Baghdad.
According to Salehi, it was after such coordination with Soleimani that the Iranian ambassadors to Tunisia and Libya were appointed. He added that during the protests in several Arab countries, the Iranian Foreign Ministry could not handle the issues related to these countries alone, so they had meetings with Soleimani a couple of times per week.
Salehi said that during his trip to Libya, he had witnessed how the IRGC Quds Force had helped the “revolutionaries” who were wounded in Libya’s civil conflicts, and with the help of the Red Crescent, they had created some possibilities.
The issue of Iran’s armed forces using the Red Crescent as a cover has been raised before. In 2019, former IRGC Commander Saeed Ghassemi said that in the 1990s he had gone under the cover of Red Crescent forces to Bosnia and had given military training to Muslim forces.
In 2021, former Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, in a controversial interview that was leaked to the media, levelled unprecedented criticism against the dominance of the armed forces over Iran’s foreign policy, saying that the Iranian government gives precedence to IRGC military activities over diplomacy. He accused Qassem Soleimani of harming the country’s diplomacy.
These remarks were strongly condemned and Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei denounced Zarif’s remarks, without mentioning his name, saying “these are the reiteration of the enemy’s words.”
Ali Akbar Salehi has pointed to Soleimani’s activities in Iraq, urging that “many of those who became officials after the collapse of Saddam were previously friends of Sardar [Qassem Soleimani] and were in contact with him.”
The IRGC’s influence over Iran’s diplomacy was earlier raised by the late Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. He had said that in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Afghanistan, “no one can appoint an ambassador without the IRGC’s agreement.”
They Take Iran’s Oil in Return for Cheap Chinese Goods and Sri Lankan Tea, Says Chamber of Commerce
Massoud Daneshmand, member of Iran’s Chamber of Commerce, has objected to the barter policy of selling oil for goods adopted by Ebrahim Raisi’s government, saying that because of this policy, countries such as China are giving cheap, third-rate goods to Iran.
In an interview with ILNA news agency about bartering oil for goods, Daneshmand stated this is what the Chinese are doing to us by giving us all their cheap, third-rate goods, because Iran has not signed a specific contract with China for bartering, instead we have given them oil and have told them to give us whatever goods they want to.
Under these circumstances, Daneshmand added, because of Tehran’s unconditional barter with Beijing, China has inflicted a lot of damage on Iran over the years, and this will continue in the future.
The member of Iran’s Chamber of Commerce said that the same thing has happened with Sri Lanka. Years ago, the Sri Lankan government bought Iran’s oil and now say they cannot pay for it so Iran should take tea. This, Daneshmand underscored, is not bartering, it is rather giving tea instead of money.
In recent months, officials in Raisi’s government announced that bartering oil for goods is a serious policy for defusing the impact of US sanctions, and recently it was announced that instead of paying back its $251 million oil debt to Iran, Sri Lanka’s government is going to give $5 million worth of tea to Iran on a monthly basis.
Furthermore, the issue of dangerous agrochemical poisoning which resulted in the rejection of Iranian agricultural produce by other countries and significantly decreased the export of Iranian agricultural produce in recent weeks is related to bartering goods with China.
According to Iranian domestic media, the return of agricultural produce from Russia, India, Uzbekistan, the UAE, and Turkmenistan was due to the use of non-standard pesticides, and the majority of these pesticides were imported from China.