The heads of Iran’s executive, legislative and judicial branches met today to discuss how Iran should respond to the Trump administration’s aggressive policy vis-à-vis the Islamic Republic. In the meeting, President Hassan Rouhani, Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani and Judicary Chief Sadegh Larijani focused on the latest U.S. sanctions and their impact on the country’s economy. Rouhani said the United States is “plotting” to undermine the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the nuclear agreement Iran signed with world powers in July 2015. “Their main plot is to create doubts among our people about the country’s development and economic outlook.” The three leaders reportedly also discussed ways to attract more foreign investment in Iran, particularly from Iranian expatriates. According to Rouhani, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has urged the heads of the three power branches to consult more often on major national policies.
Speaking before the meeting, Sadegh Larijani blasted the recent U.S. sanctions against the country’s elite military force, describing U.S. Congress as a “sanction machine” and calling on the Rouhani government and Iranian Parliament to take practical measures to counteract the sanctions.
Comment: More details of the meeting are not available yet, but according to reports available, economy topped the meeting agenda today. Most of nuclear-related sanctions on Iran were lifted in January 2016, but existing U.S. sanctions still discouraged many international banks and companies to invest in Iran. Iran’s economy has seen significant growth in the past two years, but much of the growth has been in the oil sector. As a result, there has not been any significant increase in job creation and ordinary Iranians have not felt the benefits of the nuclear agreement.
The latest blacklisting of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (I.R.G.C.) by the U.S. Treasury Department has added to Tehran’s worries. This is because the I.R.G.C. is not just a military force but is also involved in all of Iran’s key economic sectors. As a result, many major foreign companies may not risk doing business with Iran because of potential penalties by the U.S. government.
According to the Iranian press, Rouhani emphasized that the government should take measures to attract foreign investment. But that would require the Rouhani government to deprive the I.R.G.C. of its economic role – something the president is unlikely to do. Furthermore, the Iranian government cannot expect more Iranian businesspeople abroad to return and invest in Iran at a time when the country’s Judiciary, I.R.G.C. and Intelligence Ministry increasingly imprison Iranian dual nationals on spurious charges.
It appears that Khamenei is pushing Iranian leaders to set aside their differences and act in unison as the Trump administration is increasing pressure on the Islamic Republic.