Iran's Rouhani warns against dissent amid economic slump

Iran's Rouhani warns against dissent amid economic slump
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was grilled by lawmakers who demanded answers on the country's deteriorating economy.
2 min read
28 August, 2018
Rouhani spoke to the Iranian parliament on Tuesday [Getty]

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has sought to defend his policies as economic problems mount amid new US sanctions. 

Speaking to the Iranian parliament on Tuesday, Rouhani appeared to link anti-government protests which saw thousands of Iranians earlier this year take to the streets, to US President Donald Trump's decision months later to withdraw from the Iran deal and reimpose sanctions.

"Be aware that disruption creates destruction. Be aware that painting a dreary picture of people's lives will lead to further despair," he said.

Rouhani also alluded to Iran having access to a "third way" to deal with the economic crisis other than deciding between abandoning or committing to the nuclear deal. He did not give details, but he said he mentioned the plan to French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday.

Despite attempts to defend his policies, lawmakers declared their dissatisfaction with Rouhani's answers on the deteriorating economy. 

It was the first time the president had been summoned by parliament in his five years in power, and MPs demanded answers on unemployment, rising prices and the sharp depreciation of the rial, which has lost more than half of its value since April.

The lawmakers have already impeached his labour and economy ministers this month, and Rouhani's answers will now be referred to the judiciary for review. 

The US reimposed a wave of tough unilateral sanctions against Iran on 7 August, bringing into effect penalties that had been lifted under the 2015 nuclear accord.

The first of two rounds of US sanctions targeted Iran's access to US banknotes.

The impact of the return of sanctions has also ramped up political tensions inside Iran, which has seen days of protests and strikes in multiple towns and cities over water shortages, high prices and wider anger at the government.

Severe reporting restrictions have made it impossible to verify the swirl of claims coming through social media.

Trump has previously said he was open to reaching a more comprehensive deal with Iran "that addresses the full range of the regime's malign activities, including its ballistic missile program and its support for terrorism".

"If you're an enemy and you stab the other person with a knife, and then you say you want negotiations, then the first thing you have to do is remove the knife," Rouhani said in an interview on state television on 6 August.

Agencies contributed to this report.