News / Middle East

    Hardliners Hold Fire on Iran Nuclear Deal, but for How Long?

    In this photo released by the Iranian Students News Agency, ISNA, Iranians hold posters of President Hassan Rouhani as they welcome Iranian nuclear negotiators upon their arrival from Geneva at the Mehrabad airport in Tehran, Nov. 24, 2013.
    In this photo released by the Iranian Students News Agency, ISNA, Iranians hold posters of President Hassan Rouhani as they welcome Iranian nuclear negotiators upon their arrival from Geneva at the Mehrabad airport in Tehran, Nov. 24, 2013.
    Reuters
    Iran's nuclear negotiators returned home as heroes on Sunday, greeted by jubilant supporters after securing a deal with world powers over the country's disputed atomic program.
     
    Two days on, Iran's political realities are sinking in.
     
    To ensure the deal stays on track, Iran's new moderate government needs to protect it from virulently anti-Western security hardliners who wield great economic and political power and are close to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
     
    Those voices are mostly silent as yet, but as the complex accord's costs and benefits are weighed by Iran's factionalised political class, hardliners who call the United States and its allies “world arrogance” will be poised to pounce.
     
    “Major opposition is limited at the moment, but whichever parties have benefited from the status quo of sanctions and a closed economy stand to lose,” said Siavush Randjbar-Daemi, a lecturer on Iranian politics at the University of Manchester in Britain.
     
    “The agreement is still frail and the sense of urgency for talks on the next stages shows that things are on thin ice and the Iranian side needs to continue the momentum.”
     
    President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif are increasingly popular: Iranians sense that the deal may solve the nuclear stand-off and end sanctions that have done serious damage to Iran's economy.        

    The critics

     
    But they must contend with critics such as the  ultra-conservative Kayhan newspaper, which has questioned the divergence of views between Iran and the United States over a key part of the text: Iran says its right to enrich uranium has been recognized, while U.S. officials maintain that is not the case.
     
    “The fact that American leaders undermined the deal several hours after [they signed it] - before the ink was even dry - shows that the root of the challenge of dealing with untrustworthy America remains,” Kayhan said in an editorial.
     
    Such interpretations could gain traction among Iranians, especially if hawks in the U.S. Congress at the same time succeed in blocking further attempts at rapprochement.
     
    “If the U.S. backs away from the deal or it's undercut by Congress, that feeds the hardliners in Iran,” said Scott Lucas of EA Worldview, a news website that monitors Iranian media.
     
    The situation leaves Khamenei - who quickly endorsed the achievement - in a bind.
     
    He now faces the challenge of weighing the vision of the government against that of hardliners to whom he owes a lot, not least snuffing out the threat to his authority from millions of protesters who disputed the 2009 presidential election.
     
    “The supreme leader will have a difficult balancing act to maintain. He will have to apply the best of his skills to keep the moderates and the conservatives happy,” said Iranian-born Meir Javedanfar, a lecturer on Iranian politics at the Interdisciplinary Center at Herzliya, Israel.
     
    “On one hand he needs Rouhani ... to reach a deal with the West. On the other Khamenei also needs the support of the conservatives as they have been his most loyal allies.”
     
    Charm offensive
     
    While Iran says its nuclear program is peaceful, the West suspects it is aimed at developing nuclear weapons.
     
    Since the agreement was sealed, Rouhani's government has gone on a charm offensive in an attempt to shore up support from conservative groups and their constituencies.
     
    Within hours Rouhani gave a news conference alongside the families of Iranian nuclear scientists who were assassinated in Tehran in attacks Iran blamed on Israel.
     
    “It's a shame your father [martyred nuclear scientist] isn't here with us today; be assured his memory lives on,” Rouhani's office quoted him as saying. It sent a Twitter message with a picture of the president kissing the head of a young girl.
     
    Since returning home, Zarif has also polished his own revolutionary credentials. On Monday, he honored the sacrifice of those killed in the Iran-Iraq war, a central pillar of the uncompromising views on national security held by hardliners, and also met the families of killed nuclear scientists.
     
    Israeli anger helps sell deal
     
    “This was a pre-emptive move, a very astute political move,” said Mehran Kamrava, of Georgetown University in Qatar. “He was extremely sympathetic to their loss ... so it would not appear the loss was in vain.”
     
    Zarif has also emphasized the threat the agreement is under from Iran's enemies abroad, namely Israel, in what appears to be another way to get Iran's conservative critics on side with the deal. His message appears to be: 'if Netanyahu doesn't like it, that's good news'.
     
    The government has been sure to invoke Khamenei's endorsement of the agreement.
     
    But that was not as resounding as they made out.
     
    In reply to a letter of congratulation from Rouhani thanking him for his support, the supreme leader appeared to pay homage to the uncompromising anti-Western resistance of Iranian officials over the last eight years.
     
    His message read, in part: “God willing, persistence against those who want too much should always be the criteria for ... officials.”
     
    “Iran is your brother”
     
    Mehran Kamrava commented that Khamenei had given himself some political “elbow room” in case the deal collapsed.
     
    “Historically the supreme leader is supposed to be above the fray. So if the deal goes south, he won't have put himself out,” Kamrava said.
     
    Not wanting to be seen as the cause of the agreement's failures, Iranian hawks have instead busied themselves with firing broadsides at the West rather than at the accord itself.
     
    “America and the arrogant enemies of the Islamic revolution talk of military options against the Islamic Republic. This is no more than bluff and exaggeration,” the commander in chief of the Revolutionary Guards, Mohammad Jafari, said on Tuesday.
     
    “The smallest military mistake that is made with regard to Iran and Americans would see the most historic loss, and many U.S. facilities and those of their allies in the region and outside would be in the cross-hairs.”
     
    Parliament speaker Ali Larijani, credited with spoiling a nuclear deal brokered by former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with world powers in 2009, also lashed out over statements by Western powers that they had acted to protect the region.
     
    “You have set fire to the east and west of the Middle East and then you speak of security in the region. Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and Syria are ablaze because of you,” he said.
     
    “We say to leaders of regional countries, don't be under the influence of the intrigues of the American government or the Zionist usurper. Iran is your brother. We are all followers of one prophet and one religion.”

    You May Like

    Video Democrats Clinton, Kaine Offer 'Very Different Vision' Than Trump

    In a jab at Trump, Clinton says her team wants to 'build bridges, not walls'; Obama Hails Kaine's record; Trump calls Kaine a 'job-killer'

    Turkey Wants Pakistan to Close Down institutions, Businesses Linked to Gulen

    Thousands of Pakistani students are enrolled in Gulen's commercial network of around two dozen institutions operating in Pakistan for over two decades

    AU Passport A Work in Progress

    Who will get the passport and what the benefits are still need to be worked out

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora