TEHRAN: Iran’s President Hassan Rowhani delivered a broadside yesterday at critics of his efforts to engage with the West and seek a nuclear deal, accusing them of political cowardice and mischief.
In a speech broadcast live, Rowhani attacked the hardline factions within Iran’s parliament who have consistently opposed him since he took office a year ago after a surprise electoral victory.
“Some of them chant slogans but they are political cowards. As soon as we negotiate they start shaking. Go to hell and find somewhere to stay warm,” he told his opponents. Rowhani, a moderate whose tenure has so far focused on economic and foreign policy rather than social reform, said Iran had to counter three phobias abroad; Iranophobia, Islamaphobia and Shiaphobia.
But on the home front, the country faces “Ententephobia” from those who continue to bridle at his overtures to the rest of the world, most notably over Iran’s long-disputed nuclear programme.
Such hardliners are “50 years late” Rowhani said, warning that such trenchant opposition would result in more volatility for Iran, rather than “win-win relationships” after years in the diplomatic wilderness.
“That world is over,” Rowhani said of the longstanding chill Iran has faced.
“Ententephobia is a mistake. We must change the image of the Islamic republic, which has been tarnished in recent years,” he told an audience of Iran’s foreign ambassadors currently visiting Tehran.
“We want closer relations with the world but we will defend our rights and our national interests.”