Rouhani under fire for signaling nuclear deal reentry

Conservatives have rejected the idea of holding new talks with the United States.

al-monitor President of Iran Hassan Rouhani arrives to meet UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres during the United Nations General Assembly at the United Nations, New York, Sept. 25, 2019. Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images.

Dec 14, 2020

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has signaled to the United States in recent days that reentry to the nuclear deal would be an easy process. President-elect Joe Biden has also expressed that his administration would reenter the nuclear deal if Iran does. However, some conservatives in Iran are not as eager as Rouhani to establish a working relationship with Washington, even if they realize reentry of the United States into the deal is a necessity. 

With six months left in office, Rouhani is not yet a lame duck president but unlikely to push any large agendas. He entered office in 2013 with the promise of resolving the nuclear crisis, removing the Obama era crippling sanctions and opening the country up to the West. With six months left Iran is under more severe sanctions, it has a reduced nuclear program and relations have only improved with China. Conservatives, who believe they will take back the presidency in June, are not holding back.

In a Dec. 10 article in Tabnak, many of the sentiments regarding the reentry of the nuclear deal were discussed, especially comments by European leaders regarding non-nuclear issues such as Iran’s missiles and regional policies. The editorial in Tabnak questioned how Europe, despite not being able to stop US President Donald Trump from exiting the nuclear deal that they signed, now is “taking a step bigger than itself and bringing up the issues of missiles.” The editorial said that such demand is “incomprehensible.”

According to the article, it is Iran that should be making demands given that US sanctions caused $100 billion in damages, the United States prevented other countries from fulfilling their end of the deal, and that it is the US position that has failed, not Iran’s, so that they are not in a position to ask for consessions. The article continued that Iran should demand the immediate return of Washington to the deal and have it approved by Congress so that it prevents future administrations from repeating Trump’s policies. The article also demanded a full return of the United States and Europe for an entire year before Iran returns fully to the deal. 

Other conservatives have also drawn the line on new US-Iran talks. Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf tweeted that Iran should not give the message of “compromise” to the United States, while Mohsen Rezaei, secretary of the Expediency Council, said that the United States is in a quagmire. 

Lotfollah Forouzandeh, member of the conservative Society of Devotees of the Islamic Revolution, summed up the latest feelings about the conservative opposition to talks with the United States in a Dec. 7 interview with Iranian news site Khabar Online. “The people are extremely pessimistic about the United States and are very angry at them because they have lost two national heroes, the hero of resistance — commander [Qasem] Soleimani — and the other a defense and nuclear hero — [Mohsen] Fakhrizadeh,” he said. Citing a poll, he said that 80% of Iranians are opposed to talks with the United States.

When Trump took office, he vowed to scrap the nuclear deal that was signed under his predecessor and negotiate another deal with Iran. The current nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, was signed by Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. Two years into his administration Trump realized that Iran would not renegotiate another deal after already having limited its nuclear program, and the United States exited the deal, reapplying US sanctions that prevented Iran from selling its oil and causing damage to the economy. President-elect Biden has said that he would reenter the nuclear deal once he takes office. 

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