State media says Iran president replacing 2 Cabinet members

DUBAI United Arab Emirates (AP) – Iran President Ebrahaim Raisi on Tuesday announced a Cabinet reshuffle, replacing the minister of agriculture and the head of planning and budget, Iranian media reported. The moves come amid widespread dissatisfaction with the government.

State TV said Raisi replaced agriculture minister Javad Sadatinejad with a deputy who will serve as interim minister. He replaced the vice president and head of the planning and budget department, Masoud Mirkazemi, with Davoud Manzoor, a former department deputy.

The country’s dire economic conditions, including inflation of nearly 50%, have contributed to widespread anger at the government. Retirees and teachers have held scattered protests in recent months.

Iran’s currency the rial is at a low of 510,000 to the dollar as the effects of nationwide anti-government protests and the breakdown of the 2015 nuclear deal shake the economy. The rial was trading at 32,000 to the dollar when the country signed the nuclear accord with world powers. The agreement lifted international sanctions in return for strict limits on and surveillance of its nuclear activities.

The most recent Cabinet reshuffling was the fifth in less than two years since Raisi came to power.

Earlier this month, Raisi dismissed the education minister after a delay in payments to teachers. In December, Raisi replaced the minister of roads after he became terminally ill. Last year, Raisi replaced the labor minister after protests by workers and retirees over payments.

Then-President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the U.S. from the nuclear deal and restored crippling sanctions. Iran responded by ramping up its enrichment of uranium, and now has enough for “several” atomic weapons if it chooses to develop them, according to the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog.

Iran insists its nuclear program is entirely peaceful, but experts say it had a nuclear weapons program until 2003 and is developing a breakout capacity that could allow it to quickly build an atomic weapon should it decide to do so.

Meanwhile, Iran has seen waves of anti-government protests since the September death of a 22-year-old Kurdish-Iranian woman who was detained by the morality police for allegedly violating Iran’s strict Islamic dress code.

The protests rapidly escalated into calls for the overthrow of Iran’s ruling Shiite clerics, marking a major challenge to their four-decade rule. Iran’ has blamed the unrest on foreign powers, casting it as an extension of the sanctions, without providing evidence.

Critics say more protests are expected if the economic problems remain unsolved.

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