Iran approves hard-line cabinet: loyalty over experience?
The president had been criticized for choosing loyalty over competence. Three of the most controversial new ministers have links to the Revolutionary Guard.
Iran’s parliament approved an overwhelming majority of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s cabinet nominees on Thursday, overriding criticisms that he had favored loyalty over competence in choosing some key ministers.Skip to next paragraph
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"The president wants to be the ruler in sensitive ministries. So he has introduced people whose major quality is that they are 'yes-men,' " conservative lawmaker Ali Motahari told the Mehr News Agency ahead of deliberations.
Among the most controversial nominees approved were:
• Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi, whom critics say has never worked in intelligence.
• Masoud Mirkazemi, who will be overseeing the oil ministry of the world’s fifth-largest oil exporter but who has no previous experience in the industry.
All three – as well as Interior Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najar – have been linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, a paramilitary organization that publicly took responsibility for curbing post-election dissent this summer.
And over the protests of conservative religious leaders, lawmakers approved the first female minister in the history of the Islamic republic – Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi, who will oversee the Health Ministry. A gynecologist with little administrative experience who has suggested health care be gender-segregated, she was criticized by reformers as too traditional and hard-line to advance women’s rights.
Lawmakers rejected only three of Mr. Ahmadinejad’s 21 nominees, a third of whom had been part of his first administration. Notably, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki retained his post, which is being interpreted as a sign that Iran’s hard-line approach to nuclear negotiations is likely to be upheld.
During the prolonged deliberation period, which began Sunday and was extended a day, Ahmadinejad confronted his opponents, particularly those who had criticized several key nominees’ ties to the Revolutionary Guard, according to Khabar Online. (For more on the Revolutionary Guard read the Monitor’s recent briefing.)
"If we accept this logic that a military figure or a member of Revolutionary Guards Corps cannot serve in the other posts, we will obstruct many ways,” Ahmadinejad said, pointing out that parliamentary speaker and former nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani was a member of the Revolutionary Guard.
Then, reports Khabar Online, an Iranian news website, Ahmadinejad’s tone became confused and furious. Calling himself a “self-sacrificer,” he lambasted those who had insulted him “in the most severe manner” – including implying that he was a puppet of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
“For selecting each of these ministers, I firstly convinced myself and then I tried to find a clear explanation for my choices to present to the God Almighty," he said.
Here are the key ministers chosen by Ahmadinjad and confirmed by parliament:
Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi
A former deputy defense minister and chairman of the Expediency Council’s political and defense committee, Mr. Vahidi received the heartiest approval of all Ahmadinejad’s nominees.