Iran's hard-liners tell Rouhani to seek solutions at home, not in New York

The Iranian president has drawn the ire of his uncompromising domestic critics after sitting down with Western leaders in New York.

al-monitor Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (R) meets with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (L) on the sidelines of the 74th session of UN General Assembly in New York, US, Sept. 25, 2019.  Photo by Iranian Presidency/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images.

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hassan rouhani, hard-liners, iran sanctions, jcpoa, iran nuclear deal, iranian nuclear issue, unga

Sep 25, 2019

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's diplomatic engagement with the leaders of France, Germany and the United Kingdom has prompted a barrage of sharply worded attacks from hard-liners back at home. These critics have long accused Rouhani of failing to respond in kind to the European states' "reneging" on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). They have been pushing for a full withdrawal from the accord, arguing that protracted negotiations with the European signatories is a waste of time.

In the latest wave of criticism, the Rouhani opponents argued that he should have canceled the meetings after the three European countries blamed Tehran for the Sept. 14 attack on Saudi oil facilities that was claimed by Yemen's Shiite rebels. Kayhan, the paper affiliated with the supreme leader's office, reported that Rouhani had "disrespected Iran's dignity" by sitting down with his French counterpart Emanuel Macron, whom the daily described as "little more than a worthless middleman." In a separate article, Kayhan advised Rouhani to find the "key" at home by relying on domestic economic capabilities rather than seeking solutions in New York meetings.

Before shaking hands with UK Premier Boris Johnson, the Iranian president was already under mounting pressure from such hard-liners as Abdollah Ganji, the managing editor of Javan, which officially represents the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Also, Hossein Naghavi Hosseini, a relentless critic of the Rouhani administration and the spokesman for the Iranian Parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission told Rouhani to ignore Johnson because "the UK's Iran approach has been even harsher than that of the United States."

Rouhani, however, went ahead with the meeting after talking to German Chancellor Angela Merkel in an unscheduled call. "World leaders engaging with Rouhani in New York is a sign that we are closer than ever to a diplomatic opening," tweeted Reformist activist and Rouhani supporter Salar Ahmadi. "Note that a German chancellor is meeting with an Iranian president for the first time after the 1979 revolution."

Yet both hard-liners and Reformists seemed to share the interpretation that US President Donald Trump's address to the General Assembly was a "failed attack" against Iran. "The speech was void of any fresh content or a clear road map," Javan reported. "By taking the military option off the table, Trump put Iran's might on display during his speech."

"Trump's economic terrorism is targeting Iranians' right to health and life on a daily basis, but he calls this a peace-seeking policy," tweeted spokesman for the Rouhani government Ali Rabiei, adding that the US president's references to war and peace were reminiscent of the ironic misnomer of "Ministry of Truth" in George Orwell's well-known dystopian novel "1984."

Elsewhere at a briefing in Tehran, Rabiei also addressed the latest speculations about whether Rouhani may end up meeting with Trump in New York. "Iran will not sacrifice its interests for domestic US politics," he said, suggesting that Trump is seeking reelection by pressing for a new deal with Tehran. However, the Iranian official confirmed earlier reports that to "break the stalemate," Rouhani has expressed readiness for "a small change" to the nuclear deal but only if sanctions are lifted in exchange and the United States reinstates its original status in the accord.

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