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Nuclear deal is nightmare scenario for Iranian hard-liners

Nearly everyone in Iran wants to see the nuclear spat with world powers resolved. The exception is Iranian hard-liners. Here’s why.

Tehran (dpa) – The victory of Hassan Rowhani, a moderate, in Iran’s last presidential election was a serious setback for the country’s radical political forces. Now, they could face an even more bitter defeat.

If Iran secures a deal with six world powers that removes concerns about its nuclear programme, Rowhani and his foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, will have achieved what hard-liners failed to do during a decade of nuclear negotiations.

Their candidate in the 2013 election, Saeid Jalili, was the country’s chief nuclear negotiator for six years. In this period little progress was made, and additional sanctions were slapped on the Islamic Republic.

Despite the country’s abundant oil reserves, the punitive measures caused an economic crisis during the presidential term of Rowhani’s predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Tehran’s international isolation deepened.

“The art of diplomacy is not to make new enemies, but to win more friends,” Rowhani once quipped about Jalili’s negotiation tactics.

Rowhani has placed all his bets on a nuclear deal with Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany. If achieved, it would end what he has called the “dark era” of radicals.

“Rowhani took a big risk,” a Western diplomat in Tehran said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

If Iran does not clinch an agreement in the coming days in Vienna, even his most faithful supporters may turn their backs on him, making way for political forces who are less likely to make compromises with world powers, he said.

Many Iranian political experts share this view.

“If the talks fail, the government might hit a dead end and would not be able to come up with alternatives,” analyst Parvis Amini said in a recent newspaper interview.

That is why hard-liners hope that Zarif, the foreign minister, will not be able to secure a deal that would force Iran to scale back its nuclear programme and accept intrusive inspections in return for the lifting of sanctions.

When Iran and the group of six reached an agreement in Lausanne in April on the outlines of a deal that is due to be completed by June 30, Rowhani’s political enemies grew nervous.

They tried to sabotage it and ordered Zarif to appear before parliament several times.

He tried in vain to convince anti-Western parliamentarians that an agreement would be in their country’s interest.

One of the lawmakers called him a “traitor.”

“It’s understandable why hard-liners are nervous. They are fighting for their political existence,” said a political scientist in Tehran who did not want to see his name published.

The nuclear agreement would end Irans economic crisis and its international isolation, making national heroes of out Rowhani and Zarif.

But there are even greater risks ahead for the hard-liners, starting with parliamentary elections due next year.

Iran’s hard-liners are part of the country’s conservative factions that have dominated parliament since 2004.

“The nightmare scenario for the arch-conservatives is to lose also the legislative to the reformers, after having lost the executive powers,” the political scientist said.

In recent years, the faction of former president Ahmadinejad has become the main hard-line group. Last month, the pro-Ahmadinejad wing established its own party, named Unique.

It is supposed to run against the pro-Rowhani reformists in the 2016 parliamentary elections.

In case of a victory, the next step would be introducing Ahmadinejad as their top candidate for the 2017 presidential race.

This would be the first direct showdown between Ahmadinejad and his archenemy Rowhani.

A victory by reformers in parliament, by contrast, could help Rowhani get re-elected in 2017.

“In this case, hard-liners would be pushed off the political stage until at least 2021,” the political scientist said.

Farshid Motahari, "Nuclear deal is nightmare scenario for Iranian hard-liners," Business recorder. 2015-06-29.
Keywords: Political science , Political issues , Political crises , Presidential election , Political forces , Economic crisis , World powers , Political experts , International isolation , Political scientist , Parliament reforms , Executive powers , Iran , Britain , China , France , Russia , United States , Germany