Ex-Negotiator Saeed Jalili Has Set Twitter on Fire
“It’s better for US to think of the nightmares that left for its grandchildren since the Islamic Revolution in Iran”. This is Iranian ex-nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili’s response to remarks apparently made by John Kerry, which hit headlines in Iran’s principlist media outlets back in May. In back translation, the Kerry quote will read: You can always remember and embellish it for your grandchildren, telling them how you sat in the same room with Javad Zarif and made him surrender.
Quite strangely, the so-called “incomprehensible” Tweet brought fiery backlashes on Tuesday evening. First came a popular fervor entertaining Twitter users who joked that lack of English competence had been the reason nuclear talks reached nowhere under Jalili’s tenure as Iran’s chief negotiator. “Jalili in trouble for using Google Translate,” quibbled a user. “Is this how he’d been negotiating all the time?” one asked rhetorically. Another addressed Jalili, urging him not to write in English anymore. “The P5+1 were OK with the agreement from the very beginning, it was Jalili who talked using Google Translate,” another Persian tweet read. The doubts shed on Jalili’s competence in English went so far as to call for the release of a video, if any, in which Jalili spoke English. Others noted that Foreign Ministry Director General for political and international affairs Hamid Baeidinejad had revealed last year that an interpreter accompanied Jalili during the talks.
In any similar case, the public opinion in Iran is used to denials and that is often the case. Independent journalists who had contacted Jalili’s bureau returned with reports of denial that he or his bureau ever administered the account. Apart from Foreign Ministry officials, Iranian politicians have been cautious about admitting they have an account on Twitter, as the network has been blocked since 2009. Despite initial denials, some accounts have been verified later, as was the controversial case with that of Hashemi Rafsanjani, the contents of which had been severely criticized by the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Raja News, a principlist website close to the harliner Paydari front, came to help Jalili saying it was a fan page. This however did not stop Aftabe Yazd, a reformist daily, from lashing out Jalili and his like-minded Ahmadinejadists(!). “They feel obliged to share posts in English on Twitter while they do not know the least about the language,” it’s cover story reads. The article goes on to name Paydari MP Javad Karimi Ghoddusi, Ahmadinejad’s Vice President Mohammad Aliabadi, his Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, and Mr. Ahmadinejad himself as predecessors of Jalili, with horrible goofs ranging from MPT instead of NPT to saying Yes when replying “How are you”.
The raw is still going on, now with the principlists on the offensive. “The guy found fault in that Jalili had an interpreter during the talks! What’s wrong with it? Since when is knowing English considered a value? Jalili is one among all politicians,” wrote a principlist sympathizer. A footage of Rouhani in an interview with Christiane Amanpour has resurfaced showing President Rouhani stammering to say he will “bring peace and freindship from Iranian people to American people”. Chief editor of Raja News, Ali Naderi, offered his own recap: “After three years of technical criticism about the JCPOA, they finally found a mistake made by Jalili for their headlines, but it turned out to be not his own account!”
Political rivalry in Iran has evolved so intense that the sides are literally ruining one another. Amid the presidential campaigns in 2013, many found Jalili as an extension of Ahmadinejad, particularly so in foreign policy. Now things have changed and they are considered as potential competitors. On Monday, Entekhab, a pro-reform website, revealed that in the midst of a Telegram war between supporters of Ahmadinejad and a political spectrum affiliated with Kayhan daily, ex-President’s cahoot is trying to avoid confrontations with Jalili even though they consider him as their main in-house comepetitor during the next year’s presidential election. Back in 2013, Jalili had collected little more than 4 million votes, about 11 percent of the total cast and two millions less than Tehran Mayor Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf who finished second, winning a third of the ballots Hassan Rouhani obtained on his way to office. Will the new episode backfire against Hassan Rouhani? Will it eliminate Jalili? It may as well get Ahmadinejad involved in a controversy he does not need to get involved with at least for now.