Influential hard-line cleric intensifies attacks on Rouhani


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One of the more hard-line clerics in Iran has called President Hassan Rouhani’s Citizens’ Rights Charter initiative “incompatible with Islam,” called for a study of any connections between the 2009 election protests and people who have studied in Britain and warned that the administration was mishandling the nuclear negotiations.

Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi, a member of the Assembly of Experts and the head the Imam Khomeini Institute in Qom, was at one time former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s spiritual adviser. There are rumors he is no longer affiliated with the hard-line group Endurance Front, but he still wields enough influence in Qom and parliament that Rouhani sent Deputy Foreign Minister Seyed Abbas Araghchi to brief him on the nuclear negotiations.

At the meeting on Saturday, Mesbah Yazdi criticized the administration for not responding to the rhetoric against Iran by Western officials, saying, “Instead of justifying the speeches of those who insult and name-call Iran by saying that it is for domestic consumption, they should have condemned their bullying.” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has downplayed comments by American officials that “all options are on the table,” saying that he believes them to be meant only for US consumption.

Mesbah Yazdi also criticized the administration for publicly speaking about the country’s economic troubles, believing that that those statements weakened Iran’s position at the negotiation table and warned that the administration’s liberal cultural policy will create something “more dangerous than the 2009 sedition.”

In an attack on Rouhani’s education in Scotland, Mesbah Yazdi told the board of directors of the National Defense University today, “The foundation for the 2009 sedition was formed in London and the people who founded that sedition are educated in England.” He called for a studof Britain’s policies, fearful of what he sees as its strategy to educate Iranian politicians and spread Western ideas inside Iran.

Mesbah Yazdi said that those who are educated in Britain have “similarities in thinking to one another,” adding that Rouhani’s proposed Citizens’ Rights Charter holds that “a Baha’i and a Muslim, a revolutionary and an anti-revolutionary, are equal — it comes from that thinking.”

Rouhani’s Citizenship Rights Charter does not mention Baha’is specifically. However, Mesbah Yazdi said, “One senses danger [in] that 35 years after the Islamic Revolution, the highest official after the Supreme Leader would say something that [Abolhassan] Bani Sadr did not even dare say.” Bani Sadr was the first president of Iran after the 1979 revolution. In 1981, Bani Sadr was impeached, although he was already in hiding by that time and immediately left Iran after his impeachment.

Last month, Mesbah Yazdi attacked Rouhani for calling critics of the Geneva deal “semi-literate.” He accused Rouhani of lying, of not being open to criticism and of being “heartless.”