Rohani, Under Fire, Vows to Defeat 'anti-Iranians in the White House'

In first, parliament summons president to answer questions on weak economic growth after U.S. reimposed sanctions

Iranian President Hassan Rohani delivering a speech at the shrine of the revolutionary leader Khomeini in southern Tehran, August 25, 2018
AFP

Iran will overcome newly reimposed U.S. measures against Tehran, Iranian President Hassan Rohani told a parliamentary session on Tuesday, vowing that his government would defeat any Western plot against the Islamic Republic. 

The parliament summoned Rohani for the first time to answer questions on weak economic growth and rising unemployment, but Rohani said the troubles only began when Washington reimposed sanctions on Tehran. 

U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew in May from a deal that had lifted sanctions on Tehran in return for curbs on its nuclear programme. 

Washington imposed a new round of sanctions in August targeting Iran's trade in gold and other precious metals, its purchases of U.S. dollars and its car industry. A new round of sanctions to be imposed in November targets Iranian oil sales. 

"I want to assure the Iranian nation that we will not allow the U.S. plot against the Islamic Republic to succeed," Rohani said in a live broadcast on state television. 

"We will not let this bunch of anti-Iranians in the White House be able to plot against us." 

He added, "We are not afraid of America or the economic problems. We will overcome the troubles." 

Rohani, a pragmatist who reduced tension with the West by striking a nuclear deal with world powers in 2015, now faces a backlash from hardliners over Washington's pullout from the pact. 

Hardline elements in the parliament have pressed Rohani to reshuffle his economic team to better shield the economy from Trump's moves and tamp down public discontent. 

Rohani said the troubles began with anti-government protests in early January when many Iranians, angered by rising prices took to the streets, chanting slogans against the government and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. 

"The protests tempted Trump to withdraw from the nuclear deal," he said, asking lawmakers to support his cabinet and not add to anti-government sentiment. 

Although the economic problems were critical, Rohani said, "More important than that is that many people have lost their faith in the future of the Islamic Republic and are in doubt about its power." 

Lawmakers asked why the government had not adopted reforms in the financial sector and foreign exchange market, and sought an explanation why, more than two years after the nuclear deal, Iranian banks still had only limited access to global financial services. 

Rohani appointed a new central bank governor and accepted the government spokesman's resignation, suggesting that he accepts the need to reshuffle his economic team.