Recent nuclear agreements between Iran and Western countries, led by the United States, have been well-received by the Iranian people. Sanctions have been removed, as promised by President Hasan Rouhani, and now the people expect improvements in relationships between the Islamic Republic and the West, as well as with the Arab countries. But more importantly they are looking forward to greater political freedoms. The nuclear accords were the first step taken by the Rouhani government towards reform.
The opposition groups, moderate forces within the regime, and the Reformists who were in favor of the agreement are now expecting the same improvements to occur domestically in order to usher in national reconciliation and political reform culminating in a passage to democracy . But since the traditional conservatives and extremists, led by Ayatollah Khamenehie, are vehemently against the agreement, and particularly oppose any domestic reforms in the wake of the implementation of the agreements, a severe confrontation has emerged between Ayatollah Khamenehie on the one hand and Rouhani and Rafsanjani on the another.
The February 26 , 2016 election of the Expediency Council was a great success. In this election, people voted against the most influential candidates supported by Khamenehie, and in this way said 'no' to him. In addition, the people managed to elect a group of moderate representatives in the parliamentary elections. On April 29, 2016 the representatives who did not win a clear majority will compete in runoff elections. The new "Majles" will convene on May 27, 2016. There is every reason to hope that the moderate parliament will be in favor of Rouhani's agenda. But this is a small step toward shaping the country's internal affairs along the agreement's lines, and one should not underestimate the possibility of a repetition of the period of Mahmood Ahmadinejad and Saeed Jalili in the next round of the presidential elections.
The Presidential Elections and the threat of the resurgence of the Ahmadinejad/Jalili camp.
The presidential elections of the Islamic Republic of Iran will take place 14 months from today, and almost 4 months after the inauguration of the new president of the United States on January 20, 2017.
The conservatives, led by Khamenehie, have been preparing for some time. Khamenehie is harshly attacking Rouhani. He repudiates the agreement, criticizing for not having servedg the interests of the Islamic Republic. He states that Iran has fulfilled all its agreements while the United States not only has not yet lifted the sanction, but has imposed new additional sanctions. Indeed, the United States still prevents the other countries from having open relationships with the Islamic Republic and does not allow the release and return of Iranian's frozen assets.
According to Khamenehie, the agreement means surrendering to the United States' demands with nothing in return, and - he claims -- that is the American style of agreement which means nothing but domination. Is it wiseor in our national interest, he argues, to agree to such a contract; to give up everything and receive nothing in exchange? He also says that Rouhani, Rafsanjani, and Khatamee, along with groups like the Reformists and the moderates, who are talking about a domestic reforms in the wake of the nuclear agreements, either consciously or unknowingly have turned into agents of America, following and implementing its imperialistic designs.
General Mohammad Ali Jaffary, The Commander in Chief of the Revolutionary Guards, claimed in his speech on March 28, 2016
"The sanctions have not yet been lifted even after the nuclear agreement, and apparently there is no intention for this, or if there is any, it seems it is going to be too gradual, drop by drop!"
On the same day Amir Ali Haji Zadeh, then Commander in Chief of the Revolutionary Guards' Air Force, referring to the recently imposed nuclear sanction by the United States, declared that Iran should not worry about an American military attack. Rather, "Our chief worry is here at home. Those who worry us are the sons and nephews of the authorities and those who can influence the decision makers."
On March, 30, 2016 Kamenehie, in response to Hashemi Rafsanjani's Tweets, accused him of betraying the country, and said that in today's world negotiations and military preparedness are both essential. Without military power small country will militarily threaten you. . Meanwhile, he expressed his dissatisfaction over the actual process of the nuclear agreement, claiming that the Americans have swindled Iran:
"One has to be forceful in negotiations, and should negotiate in a way to avoid being deceived. If we agree and sign a contract, and they just pretend that they are keeping their agreement but do not lift the sanctions and continue the trade embargo, this indicates a problem. We should not let these problems be created, we should be proactive there as well by boosting our defenses."
It seems like Khamenehie's criticism of the Reformists has encouraged the Revolutionary Guard commanders to attack the moderates and Reformist factions within the regime. On, in April 5, 2016 Jaafari said that whoever, including the Khatamee's government, the [Reformist] Sixth Parliament, or the Green Movement, which intended to transmogrify the regime, was in turn "destroyed and lost credibility. No one needs be concerned about Rafsanjani or Rouhani, since the Iranian regime was strong enough to bypass even the deviance of Ayatollah Montazeri." Even if they occupy both the legislative and executive powers, these people "will eventually be pushed away." There are those who are inclined toward the West and who have penetrated the regime, but the Revolutionary Guards "will never allow the seeds of treason to grow to maturity."
The recent nuclear agreement has not a document to be proud of. It was not such a success story to deserve second and third retelling on the domestic scene as a governmental fable". It has been embarrassing and humiliating enough and "we would never think about repeating such an experience in other occasions". " We are not afraid of the United States treats, and "prior to any other way of responding, we have prepared ourselves for a military response." He also added that
"The Revolutionary Guards are prepared with an exact plan about how to respond to the provocative and stupid actions of backward regimes like Bahrain and Saudi, which is the result of their reliance on the support they receive from Americans, and we will retaliate, if necessary, upon receiving an order."
Rouhani in his speeches delivered on April 4, and April 9, 2016, defended the nuclear agreement, tolerance, and friendship with the world, and responded to Khamenehie, and Jaafari, saying, "if we wanted to continue Ahmadinejad's policy today, our oil exports would be zero. If not for the agreement, however gradual, we could not have even exported one barrel of oil." He called his opponents extremists who cause Iranophobia and push the country to the brink of destruction. In response to Jaafari, he said ,
"We are not a threat to any country, we have not plotted against any country; nor do we intend to do so. The safety and security of our neighbors and the region is our safety and security. Any defensive measures are only to serve the maintenance of our security as well as that of the region's security. All our neighbors should keep in mind that Iran's plan is to support its neighbor and other Islamic countries, and if any country thinks that Iran is a threat to itself, it has in all likelihood made a grave miscalculation. Iran is no threat to anybody, and has never declared was against any nation and won't do so in future."
He also said that by inducing fear and with tough baseless words, the leadership of the Revolutionary guards could destroy all the opportunities achieved through nuclear agreement.
Iran's Economic Situation
According to the World Bank , the growth rate of Iran's gross domestic production during the presidencies of Rafsanjani, Khatamee, and Ahmadinejad was 5.1%, 4.3%, and 3.2% respectively. The average economic growth rate in Iran during the years of 1989-2011 has been 4.7%. Under the crippling sanctions, Iran's economic growth in 2012 and 2013 was reduced to -6.6% and -1.9%, and will probably reach .5% in 2015.
Not only Rouhani, but even the Americans promised that the economic situation in Iran would noticeably improve with the nuclear agreement and removal of the sanction. But even at the outset of the negotiations some distinguished American analysts and personalities gave false information concerning the fate of Iran's frozen assets in the United States . They argued that a large portion of these assets should be paid as compensation for all the terrorist activity that Iran had been involved in after the sanctions were lifted. Iran has fulfilled all its agreements.
However, the United States has placed Iran in a bind: Iran is still under sanctions regarding banking transactions with American banks. It cannot use dollars in its trade since non-American banks are worried about the heavy penalty for trade with Iran, even if it does not use dollars. Iran is not even able to use its free assets due to the above restrictions. Under these conditions, in fact, no improvement has taken place, and it is as if the nuclear agreement did not bring any economic improvement for Iran. Moreover, the American Congress is opposed to these nuclear agreements too.
These are independent of all the new sanctions and penalties that the Congress and various criminal courts have issued. For example, New York Supreme Court judge George Daniels sentenced the Islamic Republic to pay $10.7 billion dollars (with the addition of 9% the interest over the period since the incident it will amount to 21 billion dollars) as compensation for losses during the September 11 terrorist attack. Needless to say, 15 out of 19 people who were involved in this terrorist attack were from Saudi Arabia.
Under these circumstances, foreign investment and the importation of high technology which is a necessary condition for economic development, job creation and improving that national welfare is impossible. Rouhani must be able to effect economic growth at least by six percent in order to fulfill these needs. But according to the most recent report from the World Economic and Financial Surveys , the rate of unemployment in Iran would increase during the years of 2016- 2017, and the rate of economic growth would reach to 4% in 2016 and 3.7% in 2017.
Helping the extremist conservatives to take over?
Extremist conservatives harshly blamed the Rouhani government as well as the moderate and reformist elements within the regime, for entering agreements that resulted in no benefits for Iran and has caused the economy to go from bad to worse. The inconclusiveness of the nuclear agreements, plus economic recession, poverty, unemployment, the closing of the industries and factories, have altogether given the conservatives an excuse for such attacks. Even India could not repay its debts to Iran due to the present banking sanctions.
The extremists aim is to topple the Rouhani government and replace it with a government such as Ahmadinejad's. Even Ahmadinejad has increased his own activities and clearly stated that, "Since they (the Rouhani government) have created a mess,"... the people are demanding my candidacy." He has said that he is looking forward to the 2017 elections to appear as a presidential candidate again. Saeed Jalili on March 11, 2016 has also said: "BRJAM, (the acronym for nuclear agreement in Persian), turned from a shining sun has into a rapidly passing cloud" and said if he would have been elected as president "... I would never have signed such an agreement since I think very differently."
Some of the extremist conservatives claimed that Ahmadinejad could get up to 65% of votes the next election, but many others say that if he runs against Rouhani, he may even receive up to 75% .
The other important issue is Khamenehei's illness and the question of his succession. Naturally each faction tries to propose a candidate affiliated with itself. While moderates think a reformist candidate would help pave the road to democracy, the hardliners and conservatives want an even more radical person than Khamenehei.
However, the conditions created by the Western countries for Iran, and the increasing pressures they impose on Iran could, very likely, benefit the hardliners and conservatives and may eventually result in the total elimination of the reformists and the moderates. It seems that many Western governments have deliberately chosen a policy that keeps the power in the hands of hardliners and extremists. But it is not yet clear if the United States would follow their policy or consider it to be in its national interest. Such a policy Undoubtedly would make the United States unreliable. Even the Europeans would protest it.
If the sanctions are not lifted and the nuclear agreements doesn't lead to any tangible economic improvement, and indeed more sanctions are imposed, the situation will shift in favor of the conservatives and extremists and they are very likely the ones who will be the winner of upcoming presidential elections.
This article was translated by Mina Zand .