by: Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall
Tuesday, 24 November 2020 | The US elections continue to draw the attention of the Iranian leadership and media, which reports on its front pages the election process, its disputed results and implications.
Iran’s top religious and political figures have highlighted the damage caused to Iran by the US maximum pressure policy. This has resulted in the Iranian regime’s unwillingness to discuss the nuclear deal with the incoming US administration. Iranian officials have maintained in this regard that the US will be “examined by deeds and not by words” within regional contexts. The Iranian leadership called on the countries of the region to secure themselves in regional cooperation frameworks and not to be dependent on the US and Israel.
In the domestic arena and against the background of the upcoming Iranian presidential elections in June 2021, the conservative and the reformist camps are set to compete with one another over the benefits of negotiations with the US. President [Hassan] Rouhani, who has served two successive terms, will not stand again.
If a hardline president is elected, both domestic and foreign policy (dealing with the nuclear dossier, Middle East peace efforts, power projections) will become more uncompromising and defiant. In the meanwhile, in the run-up to the election, conservatives in Iran will try to frustrate any dialogue with the US.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei emphasized before the US elections and on Election Day that regardless of who is elected, “America is in decline.” It appears that the Iranian leader is leaning towards Iran’s conservative camp. In any case, relations with the US critically impact both Iran’s economy and the welfare of its people. Therefore, relations with the US is expected to be one of the major themes in the Iranian presidential election campaign and a key issue for the next Iranian president—reformist or conservative.
Khamenei: The United States Is Descending, No Matter Who Leads It
Khamenei has reiterated his past views that the US elections have no implications for Iran, and he minimized the significance of the U.S. elections, saying, “It does not matter who will be the next president in the United States.” Khamenei added, “The decline of the United States is certain…No matter which one will be elected, there is one obvious point, which is the political, civil, and moral decline of the American regime.”
Iran’s Foreign Minister Zarif: The Nuclear Agreement Is Not Up to Discussion
The Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said on November 10, 2020 while visiting Pakistan that the future of the nuclear deal (JCPOA) depends on the steps the US will undertake. Tehran is waiting to see what policy the US administration would implement and what action it would take regarding the nuclear deal. The Iranian Foreign Ministry issued a statement mocking the US administration’s policy against Iran. The ministry spokesman, Saeed Khatibzadeh, said that “the Trump’s administration has been on the wrong track for several years, and the policy of maximum pressure has led to maximum defeat.” In the spirit of the Iranian Foreign Minister, Khatibzadeh added that Iran will closely monitor the steps and policies of the incoming administration and that the United States has an opportunity to return from the wrong path.
[Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Saeed] Khatibzadeh referred to the recent peace agreements signed between Israel and the United Arab Emirates [UAE] and Bahrain and declared that the US elections “sent a new message to the Middle East…Iran reached out to its neighbors. However, the UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia bought their security from psychopaths in the United States and Israel. They must immediately retract to seeking peace and security, acting within a regional context. If these countries want to keep putting all their eggs in the American basket, then it is no longer safe for them.”
He reiterated that Iran would not be willing to make changes to the nuclear deal. “The agreement belongs to the past and is not open for discussion again…The US violated UN Resolution 2231, withdrew from the nuclear agreement, caused enormous damage to the Iranian people, and must compensate for it.”
The Controversy between Opponents and Supporters of Negotiations with the US Has Re-Ignited
In Iran’s domestic arena, six months before the Iranian presidential elections, the US presidential election re-ignited the controversy between proponents and opponents of dialogue with the US. Rouhani, Zarif and other proponents of dialogue with the US are facing fierce fire from the conservative camp that is backed by Khamenei.
“Iran Is Hopeful Again”
Following the announcement that [former Vice President Joe] Biden was elected president, the newspapers and media affiliated with the reformist camp expressed hope that the US would return to the nuclear deal.
Headlines and op-eds of many newspapers in the reformist camp in Iran emphasize that the Iranian people are once again hoping that the future administration in Washington will herald a new era for the Iranian people.
These articles call on the Rouhani government, which is expected to end its term in May 2021, and all government agencies not to miss the opportunity to resume negotiations with the new US administration. The newspaper Seday-e Eslahat (Voice of Reform) even published the headline on November 7, 2020: “Iran is hopeful again.”
Officials in the reformist camp have called on Rouhani to use his influence over Khamenei to the fullest extent to urge him to agree to a move toward talks with the US. They have called to restart negotiations if the Biden administration returns to the nuclear deal or conducts behind-the-scenes talks on the required conditions that the US would demand from Iran to enable it to return to the agreement framework.
Conservatives: Biden – A Steel Hand in Silk Gloves
Conservatives, for their part, have attacked the reformist camp, branding some of “the traitors who want to ‘waste’ the people’s time and to entrust all aspects of life and livelihood, and economy of the state and of the citizens to the US.”
Conservatives further condemned Biden’s ardent support for the assassination of Qassem Suleimani. In addition, they noted that Biden was [former] President Barak Obama’s right-hand man, who planned and enacted the severe and cruel sanctions on Iran that lasted even during the corona era.
According to the newspaper, the Rouhani government has severely damaged the livelihood of the people and is once again passing the ball to other fields to cover up its helplessness.
“The Unforgivable Ignorance of Rouhani and Zarif”
Conservatives emphasize that “the unforgivable ignorance and innocence of President Rouhani, Minister Zarif, and the government” linked the fate of the Iranian people and the country’s economy to the nuclear deal. Therefore, conservatives insist, they should never be permitted to return to this naiveté…[and] they should redouble their efforts and strengthen the foundations of the “Economic Resistance” in the remaining nine months of the current government as Khamenei has declared for the second year in a row.
The conservative camp has reiterated that over the past seven years, the Rouhani government has neglected numerous directives of the Iranian supreme leader. Rouhani called for proper and meticulous management of economic affairs, as well as a real and severe fight against corruption, implementation of banking system reforms and more.
Conservatives: Return to Nuclear Talks Depends on Meeting Iran’s Demands
At the same time, the conservatives leave little room to renew talks with the US. They state that only if the US fulfills a long list of conditions that Iran will impose on it would they agree to return to the negotiating table with Washington regarding the nuclear deal. However, they would by no means enter into a dialogue on other issues, including ballistic missiles, human rights, or regional issues. Conservatives emphasize that Iran’s ballistic missile capability is “the heart and soul” of Iran’s national integrity and security, which makes it a prohibited topic for discussion.
Posted on November 24, 2020
Photo Credit: khamenei.ir/wikimedia.org
Photo License: wikimedia.org
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