Iran Pulse

In Iran, some conservatives balk at sanctions 'suspension'

Article Summary
As the nuclear talks' deadline looms, some Iranian conservatives distrust the US political process and fear a potential temporary and reversible suspension of sanctions.

With ten days left before the nuclear talks' Nov. 24 deadline, the Iranian media has paid a great deal of attention to statements by Iranian officials on the negotiations between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (P5+1).

Speculation has run wild on some websites, which run conflicting articles by anonymous sources saying either that a deal is very close or that another extension will be announced Nov. 24. Former Revolutionary Guard Corps commander and current Expediency Council Secretary Mohsen Rezaei said that Iran’s missiles “brought P5+1 to its senses” in the talks.

In his sermon today, Nov. 14, temporary Tehran Friday prayer leader Ayatollah Movahedi Kermani echoed comments by President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, saying, “We too say that no deal is better than accepting force and bullying and an oppressive American recommendation.” Iran’s nuclear negotiators, led by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, have stayed on script and not offered the media anything new.

An article the same day from conservative Fars News, however, revealed some Iranian conservatives' frustration with nuclear negotiations and their distrust of the US political process and Obama’s powers.

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The author, Fars News editor Seyed Yasser Jabraeili, claimed that the only remaining issue left to be resolved in the nuclear negotiations is the question of removing sanctions. He wrote that Iran has offered compromises on its nuclear program that have been acceptable to the P5+1 to assure them that Iran is not after a nuclear bomb, but the P5+1's offer on sanctions removal “has in no way satisfied our nuclear negotiators.”

Jabreili wrote that if Obama is unable to convince Congress to remove sanctions and decides to “suspend” sanctions through executive orders, this “will not be an achievement for the country.” US Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC), who has taken a harder line than the president on the nuclear negotiations, has proposed a bill that would put any nuclear deal with Iran to a vote by Congress. It would be very unlikely to pass given the Republican victories in the midterm elections, which saw them retake the lead in the Senate.

Jabreili criticized those in Iran “who are infatuated with America” and who may also “shed tears and write thank-you notes” for Obama for just a suspension and not the removal of sanctions. Borrowing the term that President Hassan Rouhani has advocated, Jabreili called a suspension of sanctions for nuclear concessions a "win-loss" in favor of the United States.

Jabreili called the thought that Obama has a friendly view toward Iran “comical” and reminded readers that the United States introduced new sanctions designations even after the interim deal was made and recently renewed the state of emergency with Iran.

He added that if US officials and the media say that the Obama administration has no discretion to remove sanctions and that it is up to Congress to decide, then negotiating with Kerry and Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman “has been pointless.” Rather, he argued, the representatives from the Obama administration should switch places with representatives in Congress and begin the “real negotiations.”

The article concluded that it appears that the US administration has no power to prevent new US sanctions or to remove sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear program, so “apparently, Mr. Obama only has discretion in limiting Iran’s nuclear program.”

While this view may not be shared by all of Iran’s conservatives, it appears that if Obama is not able to remove US sanctions on Iran, some will be unhappy with a deal that sees Iran roll back major aspects of its nuclear program for temporary sanctions relief through suspensions.

Iran’s nuclear program is constitutionally at the discretion of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has publicly expressed support for the nuclear negotiators and asked domestic critics not to attack them. Though many critics changed the tune of their criticism, they remain opposed to aspects of the nuclear deal.

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Found in: us sanctions on iran, us-iranian relations, p5+1, nuclear negotiations, iran sanctions, iran nuclear talks, iran, conservatives

Arash Karami is a contributor to Al-Monitor. On Twitter: @thekarami

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