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Is Congress empowering Iranian hard-liners?

The recent congressional vote to target travelers who have visited Iran and whose countries are members of the US Visa Waiver Program is empowering hard-liners in Tehran.

For years, many in Iran have seen the anti-American discourse of domestic hard-liners as the cause of Washington’s antagonistic policies against the Islamic Republic in recent years — including the sanctions targeting the Iranian nuclear program. Some analysts from both the Iranian conservative and Reformist camps have been of the belief that with softening of the rhetoric and engagement with the United States, some of the tensions will be eased.

Indeed, in the final year of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s second term (2009-13), the atmosphere in Iran was such that except for Saeed Jalili — the former chief nuclear negotiator — all other candidates in the 2013 presidential election expressed their willingness to revise nuclear policies and to engage in serious negotiations with the West.

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