Rouhani Administration Faces Domestic Pressure to React to “New” US Sanction
A package of bipartisan legislation that levies sanctions on Russia, North Korea, and of course Iran is said to be a violation of the nuclear deal, reached between Iran and six world powers two years ago.
Even before the new bill passed, Senate and House leadership thoroughly reviewed an original draft to ensure its full compliance with the JCPOA.
The US administration has recently confirmed that Iran has been compliant with the nuclear deal. However, the confirmation is generally seen as lip service on the part of President Trump. The US President has reportedly let the recertification pass, only after hours of argument with his top national security advisers. Foreign Policy reported last week that Trump has asked his aides to make a credible case for declining to recertify that Iran complies with the JCPOA, which could include tougher enforcement, new sanctions, and negotiation with European allies to craft a broader strategy to increase pressure on Tehran, according to The New York Times.
Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Bob Corker has openly advised Trump to withdraw from deal, only after the Islamic republic violates the deal amidst heavy enforcement. “We gave up all of our leverage already. So wait until you have your allies aligned with you. Radically enforce it. If you radically enforce it, they’re liable and right now, I know that we’re asking — I know we’re asking to get into various facilities in Iran. If they don’t let us in, boom,” Bob Corker told a Washington Post audience Wednesday.
Iranian officials have objected to the new legislation, with some calling it a breach of the nuclear deal. President Rouhani has downplayed the sanctions, calling them the repetition of past sanctions. In a series of tweets he posted on Friday, Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif once again stressed Iran’s compliance. “Iran - unlike the U.S. - has complied in good faith with the letter AND spirit of JCPOA. Rhetoric and actions from U.S. show bad faith. Every word of JCPOA [was] carefully negotiated. Iran does not develop missiles that are designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons. Iran is not and will not be developing nuclear weapons; so by definition cannot develop anything DESIGNED to be capable of delivering them,” read the thread.
On Friday, Ali Akbar Velayati, senior foreign affairs adviser to Iran’s Leader Ayatollah Khamenei on, said the US Senate’s move is “unquestionably in breach of both the spirit and the letter of the JCPOA,” according to quotes published by PressTV. Velayati said the Iranian committee tasked with monitoring the accord would certainly examine the congressional move and come up with a “decent” response. Before the Senate move, Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani had promised the legislature would deliver a “serious” and “clear” response. After the bill was passed, Larijani has stressed Iran’s reciprocation but also called on Iranian media outlets not to exaggerate the consequences of the move.
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi has also blasted Washington for disloyalty to the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and the world powers, but underlined that Tehran will not be coaxed into violating the internationally-accepted agreement by US President Donald Trump's tricks. “We will certainly show reaction to their hostility but undoubtedly, our reaction will be smart and fully digested and certainly, we will not play in Mr. Trump’s court,” Araqchi said in an interview with the state TV on Saturday night.
The real debate going on in Iran is whether the Senate bill is a violation of the JCPOA and if so, whether the violation is flagrant. Next is the question how to respond. However, hardliners are cutting off with ridicule and pressure. Director of Kayhan daily Hossein Shariatmadari has said the Rouhani administration should no more be in charge of the dossier. “Even though the administration has sacrificed and consume a large portion of the establishment’s capacity for the nuclear deal, it has achieved no accomplishments,” Iranian media outlets quoted him as saying on Wednesday. “The dossier should be relegated to a board made of prominent and sophisticated experts, where certain members of the administration could also take part, but the administration should not be in charge because four years are enough to prove its inability and lack of expertise,” he added.
In reference to claims previously made by the Rouhani administration officials, right-wing former nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili said such unanimous bipartisan bills against Iran have turned “the rift in US government” into a joke. Jalili, who is on a committee that oversees the implementation of the nuclear deal, sees the new legislation a clear violation of the JCPOA and UN Resolution 2231.
Raja News, another hardliner online news service, has collected tweets ridiculing Araqchi’s who has been quoted to say the JCPOA has been violated, but not flagrantly. One tweet interpreted Araqchi’s remarks as a clear message to the US to continue imposing sanctions. Another draws a sarcastic comparison with an athlete whose team has received 4 goals, but insists on saying they are still not behind for six. Amir Hossein Sabeti has tweeted he would appoint Araqchi as White House spokesman, if he were in Trump’s shoes.
What do the hardliners want after all? A Telegram post by Raja news, published in response to Zarif’s tweets sums it up:
Instead of “aggression” and “demand” vis-à-vis the violation of the JCPOA and Resolution 2231 in letter, Zarif has become “passive” and defensive” in the face of delusive US claims that satellite launch violated the spirit of the deal!