Iran’s hardening posture in the nuclear talks this week and its continuing economic crisis, generated starkly opposing commentaries in Tehran media on Monday.
Conservative commentator Abdollah Motevallian has outlined the Islamic Republic's policy and expectations of the negotiations from the perspective of the revolutionary guards (IRGC) ina front-page commentary in the IRGC's daily newspaper Javan while acknowledging that many political activists in Iran and abroad question the Raisi administration's foreign policy, particularly regarding the JCPOA.
He stressed that Raisi looks at the JCPOA and nuclear negotiations as issues independent of Iran's problems, mindless of the fact that Iranian and other analysts have said repeatedly that Iran needs to get the JCPOA back on track and have the sanctions lifted to begin to solve its worsening economic crisis.
Motevallian outlined Iran's policy about the nuclear deal and negotiations in what he called "the new round of face-off with the West", most probably reflecting IRGC's worldview:
- Iran is not interested in the United States returning or not returning to the JCPOA.
- All the necessary exchanges have been made in negotiations between 2013 and 2015 which led to the JCPOA as an agreement. So, continuing negotiations with the West is meaningless.
- The Vienna talks were not meant to reach a new agreement. It was meant to make sure that the United States returns to its commitments under the JCPOA and UN Resolution 2231.
- Iran wants the full implementation of the JCPOA without any preconditions and demands full and unilateral lifting (and not suspending) of all the oppressive sanctions of the US and Europe against Iran.
- Iran's condition for returning to its commitments under the JCPOA is clear: Valid and acceptable guarantee not to reimpose sanctions with any pretext. In the next step, Iran needs to verify this for at least six months.
- The UN Security Council should undertake to punish the United States and Europe in case they break their promises in the future.
Motevallian explained that Iran will return to its commitments under the JCPOA only if all the sanctions are lifted and a valid international guarantee is given to Tehran that no such sanctions will be ever imposed again.
This is a maximalist position, if it reflects the thinking of hardliners who dominate the government.
On the other end of the political spectrum, reformist daily Arman published an interview with political scientist Pirouz Mojtahedzadeh in which the firebrand reformist academic warned the Raisi administration that foreign policy is not always similar to sabre rattling. Mojtahedzadeh charged that the administration lacks political will, and its negotiating team is devoid of creativity and initiatives.
Mojtahedzadeh stressed: "Diplomacy is a creative art. If someone knows he is not bestowed with that art, he should try to master it. But if he does not know that he does not have it, he will remain as he is and will do nothing." However, he charged that all previous governments in Iran had the same problem.
"I hope Raisi takes leave for a few hours to ponder on why he is president and what is he intends to do to reduce the hardship people have to endure. He should ask himself if he really has a mission for his country to accomplish," Mojtahedzadeh said.
"Raisi should realize that there is no other way to solve Iran's problems in the international arena other than maintaining a positive and constructive communication with the world," he continued, adding that "I do not mean we should necessarily maintain relations with Israel. But what is wrong with being friends with Canada or Australia? We should have good ties even with the United States in order to facilitate trade with the rest of the world. This is what can improve the people's livelihood."
Mojtahedzadeh said that "under the circumstances," he has no hope in the future of the negotiations as long as capable diplomats are not part of the negotiating team or as long as at least their consultation is not sought.