In a surprising move Iran’s nuclear chief has called on the government to consider people’s dire economic situation and try to reach a deal with Washington.
In what appears to be the first criticism of the government's foreign and economic policy from within President Ebrahim Raisi’s administration, the head of Iran’s Nuclear Organization, Mohammad Eslami has said, "The people can no longer tolerate the economic and financial pressures." He called on Iran's nuclear negotiating team "to use a strong political and legal argument" to facilitate the lifting of US sanctions and putting Iran back on track to progress and development.
Eslami, who is also a vice president, said during a speech on June 30 and published on Saturday: "The uncalculated measures taken by a part of the government to reform the cash subsidy system provided a pretext for nationwide dissatisfaction."
He was referring to the government decision in early May to eliminate food import subsidies that led to unusual price rises followed by protests in many parts of the country. However, he also blamed the "world's oppressive powers'" [the Islamic Republic officials' jargon to refer to the United States] opposition to Iran and its “destructive measures” that raises the risk of investment in Iran and creates economic and financial difficulties for the people.
Eslami said that the United States reduced the value of the Iranian currency by 30 to 40 percent in one blow, and Iranians are no longer able to tolerate more economic pressures.
The Iranian currency has dropped significantly since March when nuclear talks to revive the 2015 agreement known as the JCPOA stopped without a final result.
Despite his criticism of the state of the economy, Eslami said elsewhere in his speech: "Iran's economic situation is outstanding. Iran is one of the world's 20 superior economies." This was probably to balance his statements when he realized that he has gone too far in criticizing the government.
He added that the Iranian opposition abroad keeps telling the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that Iran is working on nuclear bombs. He added that inspections by the IAEA refuted these claims. However, he did not say that on June 8 the IAEA Board of Governors issued a resolution condemning Iran for not answering the agency's questions about traces of nuclear material in undeclared sites.
Eslami also stopped short of mentioning Iran's violations of JCPOA, by producing 60-percent enriched uranium and shortening the time it needs to reach a nuclear breakout point. However, he called on the negotiating team to use strong arguments to win Iran’s case.
This comes while the negotiating team is being criticized by Iranian politicians and analysts for not doing their best mainly because they, particularly the teams leader Ali Bagheri, have opposed the JCPOA since 2015, and have opposed any agreement with the United States since 2011.
Eslami called on officials to respond to the people's complaints about their difficult financial situation.
The most controversial part of Eslami's speech was his reference to "the need for intelligent command and management to prevent the enemy from making gains." This could be taken as a reference to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's occasional indecision at tough junctures as he does not wish to assume any responsibility for possible consequences, although he has the final say about everything in Iran including the nuclear program.