Iran’s Hardliners Are Losing an Enemy on Nuclear Deal’s Second Birthday
It is a landmark week for the nuclear deal reached between Iran and six world power two years ago. On Monday, the Trump administration unwillingly informed the US Congress of its opinion that Iran is compliant with the deal and the suspension of sanctions is in the interest of the country’s national security. Under the Nuclear Agreement Review Act, passed in 2015, such a report should be submitted every 90 days and in case the administration fails to confirm both issues, the Congress will have to act immediately to renew the suspended sanctions.
In a statement issued on the second anniversary of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, UN Secretary General António Guterres hailed the deal as a major achievement in the area of nuclear non-proliferation. “It gives us all hope that the most complex issues in this domain can be addressed through dialogue, understanding and cooperation. I am confident that the JCPOA is the best way to ensure the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program and realize the great aspiration of the Iranian people,” the statement added, while encouraging all the sides involved “to support further pursuit of this historic agreement”. The High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini also issued a statement in which she stressed that the European Union will “stay committed in preserving and implementing it, and building on it to address the remaining unresolved sources of tension and conflict that are still afflicting the region”. Similar statements have come from incumbent and former parties to the deal, including ex-State Secretary John Kerry, UK’s Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Boris Johnson, Minority Leader of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, and pro-Iran lobby organization National Iranian American Council (NIAC).
Iran has just finalized an agreement with French giant Total over the development of South Pars Phase 11, a key natural gas project. Iran’s petroleum minister Bijan Zanganeh has hailed the Total deal as an achievement caused by the recent presidential race and the nuclear deal itself.
However, the opponents of the nuclear deal have not backed off from their criticisms. Bellwether hardliner outlet Kayhan daily ran a feature-length cover story on Saturday, which cites former Shin Bet director Carmi Gillon’s op-ed published on Foreign Policy, that called the nuclear deal a blessing for Israel. “For decades, leaders and experts in Israel and among our allies contemplated the drastic steps we might have to take to restrain or destroy Iran’s nuclear program. That included potential military operations that might have triggered a major escalation and cost many lives — with no guarantee of achieving their goal,” Gillon had written. Kayhan referred to accusations made against itself for being in chorus with Israel in criticizing the nuclear deal, turning it against the pro-agreement by quoting a range of officials from Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir to Benjamin Netanyahu and John Kerry.
Article then picked on pro-reform and moderate outlets for being carried away in praise of the JCPOA, despite confessions made by certain Iranian officials that the nuclear deal has achieved almost nothing. The daily then questions why Iran should ‘pay commitments’ in cash while the US is ‘on credit’. Labeling the US the “serial killer of agreements”, the article concludes by calling on the Rouhani administration to retaliate US’ lack of commitment before it becomes accustomed to the JCPOA model.
Other Principlist media are maneuvering on recent remarks made by Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, in which lashed out at the US for its failure to completely observe its obligations under the JCPOA, as his bitter confession that the deal is not working. “Unfortunately up until now, the United States, while remaining at the very least possible level compliant with the agreement, has failed to observe, in times, the letter and mostly the spirit of the agreement by not allowing Iran to enjoy the full benefits of the nuclear deal. We believe they need to reconsider that position, because it is not conducive to the sustainability of the agreement,” PressTV quoted Zarif as saying.
Officials from the Rouhani administration have not bothered to comment on the second anniversary of the nuclear deal. As the Trump administration retreats from previous campaign positions and moves toward aligning itself with the JCPOA, officials in Iran seem to have come to believe that the deal will continue to be implemented. They are in fact now enjoying a fruit-picking season, with a bright prospect for foreign investment in the wake of the Total deal. The title of NIAC founder Trita Parsi’s new book on the deal seems readily applicable to Iran’s hardliners too. Like the US hawks, they are in fact “Losing an Enemy”.