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Commentators In Iran Debate Raisi Cabinet's Weaknesses

As the Islamic Republic’s parliament (Majles) officially acknowledged the receipt of the list of President Ebrahim Raisi's (Raeesi) ministers and promised to review their credentials and plans starting Saturday, August 21, reformist and conservative commentators are already evaluating would-be ministers.

Pointing out the fact that many of those named by Raisi have worked with ultraconservative former president Mahmud Ahmadinejad, the editor of conservative daily Jomhouri Eslami, Massih Mohajeri called on Raisi to make sure that his cabinet is not going to be identified by Ahmadinejad and his populist reputation.

Meanwhile, Mohajeri opined that the proposed cabinet is neither powerful, nor anti-corruption, as the new president had promised.

He also urged Raisi in the daily's editorial on Saturday August 14 to revise the list as a few nominees are affiliated with radical political parties, meaning the ultraconservative Paydari Party, which is a key block in parliament and backed Raisi during the controversial June election. Mohajeri also reminded Raisi that some of his ministerial picks have been accused by courts of wrongdoing.

Masih Mohajeri, editor of Islamic Republic newspaper in Tehran. FILE photo

Mohajeri was referring to Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi who was charged by Argentina for committing an act of terror in the 1994 deadly bombing of a Jewish community center. The Energy Minister Ali Akbar Mehrabian has also been convicted in a court in Tehran for stealing someone else's invention and registering it in his name. At least one other new minister, Rostam Ghasemi and one Vice President, Massoud Mirkazemi, have been implicated in financial corruption cases. 

Meanwhile, in an interview with the Iranian Labour New Agency (ILNA), reformist figure Javad Emam also warned Raisi that with the large number of former Ahmadinejad men in his cabinet, it might be nicknamed as "Ahmadinejad's third administration."

He also asked Raisi why someone who has been convicted in a case of forgery has been nominated as minster. "Wasn't there anyone else?" Emam asked.  He added: "We expected Raisi to listen to those who did not take part in the elections because they were not happy with the ongoing developments in the country."

Iran's defense minister-designate Ahmad Vahidi. File

Emam charged that reliance on Ahmadinejad's aides to form a cabinet raises questions about Raisi's claim of being an independent political figure.

Emam particularly questioned the merit of the candidates for the Ministery of Education (Hossein Baghgoli, reportedly a relative of Raisi's wife) and Agriculture (Javad Sadatinejad) and maintained that they were not fit for ministerial jobs. Emam warned that all together, the team chosen by Raisi for his administration is not likely to be able to solve the country's problems.

In a report carried by Etemad Online website, Mohammad Mohajeri, the editor of moderate conservative Khabar Onine news website revealed that Raisi was not initially planning to introduce a hardline cabinet but was pressured by political figures and groups.

For instance, Raisi wanted to have Saeed Mohammad, the former head of IRGC's Khatam ol-Anbia HQ as one of his ministers, but Majles Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf suggested that Mohammad was not good enough for the cabinet. On the other hand, although other commentators have talked about Paydari's influence in the cabinet, Mohammad Mohajeri believes that Raisi has ignored Paydari’s demands.

Mohajeri believes that Raisi's economic team is Vice President Mohammad Mokhber's team, adding that Raisi relies on Mokhber to make up for the shortcomings of some of his ministers.

Meanwhile, Mohajeri added that while Paydari wanted to have hardline nuclear negotiators, such Ali Bagheri and Saeed Jalili (both of affiliated with Paydari) as Iran's next Foreign Minister, Raisi dismissed both of them and introduced Hossein Amir Abdollahian as the new chief diplomat. According to Mohajeri, the message of the decision for Iran's domestic politics and foreign policy is that Raisi is not willing to further hardliners' views in the nuclear negotiations.

Mohajeri also praised Raisi for choosing Esmail Khatib as Intelligence Minister, adding that in his previous roles as the head of the Intelligence Ministry's office in Qom, Khatib confronted hardliners and radicals.

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