TEHRAN: Iran’s parliament called off a planned vote to impeach the education minister on Sunday, Iranian media reported, offering some respite for the embattled government of President Hassan Rouhani.
Also on Sunday, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urged the armed forces to enhance their capabilities even though chances of a war were slim.
Twenty-nine lawmakers signed a motion last Wednesday to impeach the minister, Mohammad Bathaei, but all of them withdrew their signatures.
“Given the imminent opening of schools [on September 23], those requesting the impeachment have withdrawn their request,” said Ahmad Amirabadi, a member of parliament’s presiding board, according to the semi-official news agency ISNA.
Ayatollah Khamenei urges armed forces to improve capabilities
Mr Rouhani has faced mounting pressure from lawmakers over his handling of an economic crisis, partly triggered by the withdrawal of the United States from the 2015 nuclear deal and re-imposition of sanctions.
Parliament sacked his labour and economy ministers last month, and Industries Minister Mohammad Shariatmadari has also been targeted for impeachment, though it is not clear if that will still go ahead.
President Rouhani himself was summoned to parliament to answer questions from lawmakers last Tuesday, a first in his five years in power, and only the second time for a sitting president.
Economic grievances played a role in Mr Bathaei’s planned impeachment, with lawmakers criticising the reduced budget for education and school renovation, though senior officials pointed out that the minister had no power over budgets.
Supreme leader Khamenei last week welcomed the pressure on Mr Rouhani’s cabinet, saying it was a sign of the strength of Iran’s democracy.
But he also warned that differences between officials should not be overly emphasised “because the people would become worried”.
According to his website, the supreme leader said even though war was unlikely the armed forces should boost their capabilities.
On Saturday, Iran announced plans to enhance its ballistic and cruise missile capacity and acquire modern fighter planes and submarines to boost its defences following the US pullout from Tehran’s nuclear agreement with world powers.
“Ayatollah Khamenei emphasised that based on political calculations there is no likelihood of a military war but added that the armed forces must be vigilant... and raise their personnel and equipment capacities,” the website quoted the supreme leader as telling commanders of air defence forces.
“The supreme leader said... the air defence units were a very sensitive part of the armed forces and on the front line of confronting the enemy, and emphasised the need to increase their readiness and capabilities,” Ayatollah Khamenei said at a gathering held to mark Iran’s Air Defence Day.
Saturday’s news of the military development plans came a day after Iran dismissed a French call for negotiations on Tehran’s future nuclear plans, its ballistic missile arsenal and its role in wars in Syria and Yemen.
Published in Dawn, September 3rd, 2018