Iran’s hardliners keep silence about the nuclear talks because they are engaged in discussions among themselves, a top political expert in Iran has said.
Rahman Ghahremanpour, an analyst of Middle East politics told ISNA news website on Saturday that the ruling hardliners are deliberating what to do about the talks and if they have to make concessions, how to present it to the public.
President Ebrahim Raisi (Raeesi) during his campaign avoided negative statements on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA, because his team knew that public opinion was in favor of a deal that would lift the sanctions, the expert argued. They also believed that a deal was imminent, and they stopped the Vienna talks in June until they would form a government and with consensus already existing among hardliners, they would finalize a deal with the West.
Ghahremanpour also argued that foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian’s tough positions during his trip to New York in September was meant for the local political environment to show toughness to Iranian hardliners. That did not mean a change of position by Raisi and his government to turn their backs to talks.
This expert’s views could be one aspect of the dynamics taking place in Iran, but he did not mention Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s commanding role in the nuclear issue, and the fact that if the Leader decided to return to the talks, most certainly hardliners would fall behind the decision. It could also be the case that Khamenei is the one who cannot decide how to make concessions after bashing the West for years as untrustworthy and deceptive.
Ghahremanpour insisted that “the regime’s policy is still to reach an agreement, but it should be a defensible agreement,” in terms of public opinion. Hardliners should be able to defend any agreement they make.
Given the fact that public opinion in Iran is in favor of a deal, it is not clear why the hardliners are hesitating. Ghahremanpour does not explain this, but he could be referring to the public questioning concessions in the sense that if the regime had to retreat on many issues why it did not reach an agreement earlier and avoid the economic pain that has impoverished more than half of the population.
Ghahremanpour mentions a possible quandary hardliners faced. He says that for eight years they attacked every move former president Hassan Rouhani made. Now, Raisi needs an agreement because the economic situation is untenable but how the hardliners can explain concessions they were criticizing during Rouhani’s two terms.
Ghahremanpour also confirms a suspicion many observers had in the spring during the presidential campaign that hardliners were preventing an agreement in Vienna because they did not want Rouhani to take the credit.
“An agreement that is in the interest of the regime is not necessarily defensible for hardliners,” he said, adding that it is now very clear that if Raisi’s team had allowed Rouhani to reach an agreement before the June elections, it would have made life easier for the new government.
He went on to say that finalizing and executing an agreement is much harder than hardliners could imagine. “The JCPOA seems to be like picking a fruit that has ripened on the tree. All you need to do is reach out and grab it,” Gharemanpour said, but that is exactly what eluded former foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
Now, hardliners are stuck between the outcomes that former presidents Ahmadinejad and Rouhani experienced in the nuclear issue, he said, but Raisi has to make up his mind. “They cannot delay an agreement for long. They either have to abandon the idea of an agreement, which would be a costly decision, or they should come up with a roadmap for negotiation,” Ghahremanpour said.