Not long ago the public face of Iran was its President Hassan Rouhani and its Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. Since protests broke out in mid-November, however, they haven’t been seen much. Zarif, who is active on social media, hasn’t tweeted since November 12, and Rouhani hasn’t tweeted since November 10.

Have they been disappeared by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), bundled away into some place and told to keep quiet? Certainly the IRGC has not been quiet of late. IRGC commander Hossein Salami threatened Israel on November 25 and then warned the US, the UK and Saudi Arabia. Rouhani, by contrast, has been doing more local duties. On November 27, he was in Iran’s East Azerbaijan province and said he didn’t know about the gas price hike that had caused protests earlier in the month. Meanwhile, the IRGC has appeared to blame Rouhani’s administration for the recent protests.

Zarif has held meetings with the Taliban over the last week and phoned the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, but he doesn’t appear publicly much, and doesn’t seem to be doing much abroad. He did meet Oman’s Foreign Minister on Monday according to IRNA, Iran’s news agency. Like Rouhani, the public face seems to have been in the shadows in recent weeks. On November 12 he had complained that Europe wasn’t doing enough to help Iran avoid sanctions. He and Rouhani had both spoken out about money laundering and corruption last month. Zarif has pushed a “Hormuz Peace Endeavor” that he says will strengthen the region and Iran.

Meanwhile, Ayatollah Ebrahim Raisi, the head of the judiciary, seems to be making more waves. He has denounced “thugs” as being behind the protests and he seems to be speaking to the supreme leader more often. Was Raisi behind other aspects of the protests, such as rationing orders? On Monday he spoke about compensating local authorities for the impact of the protests. He slammed those behind the protests as “hooligans,” and said they would be handed over to law enforcement the Iranian Intelligence Ministry and the IRGC. He accused them of being guided by foreign hands.
The mysterious semi-disappearance of Zarif and Rouhani from the public stage may be only a coincidence. Zarif has been doing things behind the scenes. However, he has not been publicly speaking much in the West, which is where he tends to get the most adoration and plaudits. Rouhani appears even more isolated. The protests may be an excuse to isolate them more.

Source » jpost