Was Rouhani Late For 'Last Meeting’ With Khamenei?
The Iranian Presidential Office's Media and Communication Officer Alireza Moezi has denied rumors surrounding President Hassan Rouhani and his cabinet's last meeting with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
In a statement posted on the administration's official website on Friday, Moezi responded to rumors circulating among members of the public and on social media explaining why Rouhani was less than welcome at the meeting with Khamenei on Wednesday July 28.
Rumors had it that Rouhani was 45 minutes late for the meeting. On Friday, Moezi explained that Rouhani thought the meeting would start at 11 rather than 10 am, and that he had tried to be at the leader's office 15 minutes ahead of the meeting.
Moezi attributed the mistake to "lack of coordination," and claimed that the meeting had started sooner than the scheduled. However, this did not explain how others including Khamenei were there at the meeting an hour earlier. Meanwhile, he said "any interpretation of the matter, including those that say Rouhani was deliberately late would be wrong."
On Wednesday, Khamenei refused to take part in an official photo shoot with Rouhani and his cabinet and did not award holy Korans to the ministers although these were part of the routine ceremony with former presidents' farewell meetings.
Moezi explained in his denial statement that Khamenei skipped the routines due to social distancing regulations in place at his office. However, while the pubic was curious during the past two days about why Rouhani was cold shouldered by Khamenei, while he usually expressed appreciation for the performance of former presidents, Moezi had nothing to say about that.
On Wednesday, contrary to his usual practice, Khamenei made it clear that "Rouhani was less successful in some areas than others," and when he said that the next government should benefit from the experience of the Rouhani administration, he said the most significant lesson to be taken was "not to trust the United States."
Khamenei also said more than once that Rouhani's ideas about reviving the 2015 nuclear deal with world power did not work.
Moezi said that staff members at Khamenei's office handed the Korans to the ministers at the end of the meeting but taking a group picture with the Supreme Leader was out of the question under the pandemic circumstances.
Although Moezi explained that Rouhani was not "deliberately late" for the pre-planned meeting, the public still remembers accusations by some Iranian hardliner lawmakers who have charged that Rouhani is often “fashionably late” for official meetings, meaning he want to show his status.
Describing his behavior as "aristocratic," Rouhani's critics mainly at the parliament have charged that he wakes up too late in the morning and refuses to hold regular one-to-one meetings with his ministers.
Former reformist lawmaker Ms. Parvaneh Salahsouri has said that she waited for two years for a meeting with Rouhani to discuss women's issues but it never took place.
Even reformist figure Abdollah Naseri has quoted former Majles Speaker Ali Akbar Nateq Nouri as saying that "Rouhani usually reports to work after 9:30 in the morning. I am usually in my office by 6:30 and expect the President to report to work earlier in order to have time to listen to his ministers."
A Mehr news agency report on April 18 also criticized Rouhani for "not being accessible," and that his absence and unavailability has annoyed lawmakers and led to disruptions at the way his ministries operate.
On Wednesday, when news first broke out about Rouhani being late and cold shouldered at the meeting, IRGC-linked Tasnim news agency referred to Rouhani's "last" meeting with Khamenei in a headline as if the Supreme Leader would never want to see Rouhani again. The meeting took place one week before Rouhani leaves office as Iran's President.