An Iranian lawmaker says Tehran’s foreign policy has "a lot of unnecessary costs" which can "leave us paralyzed on the streets of Tehran."
In an unprecedented speech before the start of parliament’s official agenda on January 6, Jalil Rahimi Jahanabadi said, "Unnecessary costs which are not a priority should be removed."
As an example of potential risks, he cited the collapse of the former Soviet Union despite its nuclear arsenal and influence around the world.
Jahanabadi's unusual remarks appeared to contradict the official line on Iran's foreign policy set by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Jahanabadi is a reformist politician and the leader of a Sunni lawmakers' faction. He has an academic background and was in charge of presidential documents more than a decade ago.
According to the Iranian news agency ISNA, Jahanabadi said: "Our influence in the region is important, but one point should not be forgotten, and that is, sometimes it is possible that unnecessary expenses can cripple us on Tehran's streets."
Drawing a parallel with the Soviet Union, Jahanabadi said, "When the Soviet Union collapsed, it had 13,000 nuclear warheads and had influence in more than twenty countries and a space station, but it was torn apart on the streets of Moscow, losing its security and territorial integrity."
Jahanabadi also pointed to the economic hardships experienced by ordinary Iranians.
"Today, people have difficulties making a living and feeding their children. If we fail to resolve the problem of unnecessary domestic and foreign expenditures, we will bear heavy costs," he said.
"We should take care of our domestic needs," he said. "We need to find friends, reduce tensions, and increase cooperation in the region and focus on the economy as our top priority."
Khamenei's opponents and critics have in recent years singled out his anti-Western and interventionist policies in the region as the main reasons for Iran's isolation and economic problems.
But open criticism in parliament, directed at the core of the Supreme Leader's foreign policy, is unprecedented -- even though Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's name was not mentioned and the criticism was voiced in a careful and diplomatic manner.