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Iranian President Hassan Rohani on Wednesday called for a change in his country’s governance, implicitly acknowledging that the Ukrainian plane crash in Tehran had caused a crisis of confidence in the authorities.
In a country where the fundamental values of the Islamic Republic must be imposed on everyone, Rohani called for more pluralism and transparency. He also erected the people as a “master”, in whose service the authorities must place themselves.
Mr. Rohani made the remarks after the emotion caused in Iran by the death of 176 people, mainly Iranian and Canadian, in the disaster of the Boeing 737 of the company Ukraine International Airlines (UIA), shot down a week ago by the armed forces from the country.
The drama occurred in an environment of extreme tension between the Islamic Republic and the United States.
The animosity between the two countries has been growing since US President Donald Trump unilaterally denounced in 2018 the Iranian International Nuclear Agreement (2015) – which had allowed Iran to return to the community of nations – before restore economic sanctions against Tehran.
It reached a new peak with the elimination on January 3 of Baghdad of General Qassem Soleimani, architect of Iranian strategy in the Middle East, killed by an American drone strike.
In retaliation, Iran launched missiles against US military targets in Iraq, causing extensive property damage but without causing death in the ranks of the US military, according to Washington.
A few hours later, UIA flight PS752 crashed. But it will take three days before the Iranian armed forces admit to having shot down the plane, “by mistake”.
Before that, the government – which said it had not been informed until Friday of the real reasons for the accident – had categorically denied that the Boeing could have been shot down by a missile as Ottawa advanced on Wednesday evening.
Referring to the “tragic” events since the beginning of January, Rohani said that this should lead to “a big decision” within the Iranian political system: “national reconciliation. ”
The legislative elections scheduled for February 21 “must (be) the first step,” he added in a speech to the Council of Ministers.
For this election, “the people want diversity,” he said.
“Allow all parties and groups to run for office. Surely you have nothing to lose, “he said, in an implicit address to the Guardian Council, the body responsible for monitoring these elections, and regularly accused by the reformers of going beyond their duties in the selection of candidates.
The tragedy of Ukrainian Airlines International, on which many students were on board, provoked outrage and anger in Iran, especially among university youth.
The Iranian media have recognized this discomfort by reporting in an entirely unusual way the slogans hostile to the political system of the Islamic Republic chanted in the student demonstrations that took place every day in Tehran between Saturday and Tuesday.
On the Internet, a feeling of distrust is also widely expressed in the face of authorities accused of trying to hide the truth about the drama.
“Sincerity, integrity, trust”
“People want to make sure the authorities treat them with sincerity, integrity and trust,” said Rohani, also arguing for “national unity” when the protest appears to be going down.
“The people are our master (…) and we are their servants,” he added.
The president urged the military to explain what happened between the time of the accident and when its true cause was announced, so that people “understood (that these) didn’t want to hide anything.”
“If there has been a delay (in the transmission of information), let them apologize,” he added.
Mr. Rohani also launched a charge against the West, led by the United States, whom he accused of fueling insecurity in the Middle East through a succession of “errors”, such as the assassination of Soleimani, military interventions in Iraq, Yemen and Libya, the American sanctions against Iranian oil…
“The insecurity in this sensitive and important region will be to the detriment of the whole world,” he warned.
“Today,” due to all these mistakes, “the American soldier is not safe, tomorrow it may be the European soldier’s turn,” he warned.
Iran, he said, wants the withdrawal of foreign forces from the region. “Not by war”, but following a “wise” decision, which will be “also in your interest”, he said to the West.