TEHRAN -- In his last speech as Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani on Monday described moderation and constructive interaction as the only appropriate approach to addressing problems.
Rouhani said his prescription for the country’s problems is the same he had thought of eight years ago.
“I reiterate that the way to save the country is moderation at home and abroad as well as constructive interaction at home and abroad,” he said.
Everybody should realize that the era of extremism is over and that the road to moderation is the right path, Rouhani pontificated.
He also highlighted his administration’s success in lifting what he called seven dangerous sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council on Iran, saying his team had always been hopeful about the results of constructive interaction and dialogue.
Rouhani also touched on what he alleged as extensive economic benefits from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), claiming that without the nuclear deal, it would have been much more difficult to achieve success under the sanctions and the economic war.
The 2015 deal saw Iran accept curbs on its peaceful nuclear energy program in return for an easing of sanctions. But former U.S. president Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the accord three years later and ramped up sanctions again, prompting Tehran to pull back from most of its nuclear commitments.
Trump’s successor Joe Biden has signaled his readiness to return to the deal but he has been apt to retain the main gamut of the coercive measures as leverage against the Islamic Republic as formal talks with the agreement’s remaining parties -- Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia – have gone on for months in Vienna.
The U.S. sanctions choked Iran, including by seeking to stop its oil exports, and the economy contracted by more than six percent in both 2018 and 2019. This was a blow to Rouhani who had sought to liberalize the economy and develop the private sector.
The policy has drawn a lot of criticism among many Iranians who believe the outgoing administration
wasted much of its time on chasing untrustworthy Europeans instead of relying on domestic capabilities.
“In this government, it was shown up that trust in the West does not work,” Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei told Rouhani and members of his cabinet in a farewell meeting this week. “Others should use your experiences. This experience is a distrust of the West,” the Leader said.
Rouhani on Sunday said that at times he “did not tell part of the truth” to its people during his eight-year tenure.
His comments, aired on national television, come as officials in his government have appeared rudderless in recent months amid a series of crises ranging from the coronavirus pandemic to parching droughts and an unprecedented rise of commodity prices.
The problems have generated a chorus of indignation and accusations that the administration is indifferent to the fate of the country in its waning days.
“What we told people was not contrary to reality, but we did not tell part of the truth to people,” Rouhani said at his last Cabinet meeting as president. “Because I did not find it useful and I was afraid it would harm national unity.”
Rouhani insisted he and his officials did their best. “If we have a defect, we apologize to the people and ask them for forgiveness and mercy,” he said.
He pointed to the country’s 2015 nuclear deal, blaming many of Iran’s current problems on Trump’s decision to abandon it, which saw the value of the Islamic Republic’s rial currency crash.
Addressing the president and his cabinet members on Thursday in a farewell meeting, Ayatollah Khamenei said, “Wherever you tied your work to the West, you failed, and wherever you rose and moved forward without trusting the West, you succeeded.”
“Whenever you postponed issues with agreements with the West or negotiations with the West and America and the like, you were stuck and could not progress,” the Leader said. “Because they don’t help. They are the enemy after all.”
On Tuesday, Ayatollah Khamenei will officially confirm Ebrahim Raisi as the Islamic Republic’s new president in a ceremony.
Both Ayatollah Khamenei and Raisi are scheduled to give speeches in the televised event that will formally approve his presidency.
A swearing-in ceremony will take place on Aug. 5, during which Raisi is expected to present his proposed cabinet, including his picks for minister of foreign affairs and minister of petroleum.