In Lead-Up to Iranian Elections, the Nuclear Deal Becomes a Heated Topic of Debate


As we reach the final countdown to the Iran presidential election scheduled for May 19, the war of words between the candidates is flaring to unprecedented levels. One sensitive and heated subject has been the Iran nuclear deal and its results.

It is clear why Iranian President Hassan Rouhani would defend the pact, which is the cornerstone of his foreign policy legacy. His rivals, including influential cleric Ebrahim Raisi and Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, defend the deal in principle and yet pinpoint its lack of effectiveness.

What must not go forgotten is the fact that Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is the true sculptor of the Iran nuclear deal, which is also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Prior to Rouhani’s presidency, Khamenei contacted the Obama administration through Oman to signal his readiness for negotiations.

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Khamenei had been informed of all the details during this process. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif underscored how all red lines in the talks enjoyed Khamenei’s signature. Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi confirmed as well that all fine lines were checked with Khamenei, being the regime’s final arbiter on all matters of state.

Today, grave concerns of international reactions, especially the new U.S. administration, have kept all presidential candidates in line regarding the JCPOA. And voices in Washington are now constantly describing the JCPOA as the worst possible deal and calling for major reviews, causing deep worries in Tehran. This is exactly why Raisi, known to be Khamenei’s preferred candidate, has described the JCPOA as a national document. Ghalibaf in his remarks described the JCPOA as an initiative to be respected by all governments.

Senior Iranian officials have sensed the tides are changing and that the Obama “golden era” is over.

Iran’s economic circumstances are in such a condition today that its leaders are, in fact, in desperately in need of the JCPOA’s continuation, despite all the accompanying dilemmas. Tehran is at least permitted to sell its oil now and a few low-level banks from overseas are doing business with this regime. If not, Khamenei would have pulled the plug when the United States extended its ten-year embargoes or imposed new non-nuclear sanctions.

Iran is also facing a range of challenges severely limiting its economic endeavors.

“Many foreign investors have been put off by obstacles to doing business such as the poor state of Iranian banks, the heavy role of powerful hard-line institutions such as the elite Revolutionary Guards in the economy, a lack of clarity about the legal system as well as lingering unilateral U.S. sanctions,” according to a Reuters report.

“More than a year after the deal between Tehran and the U.S., UK, France, China, Russia and Germany came into effect, Iran’s attempts to woo international investors have borne little fruit,” the Financial Times explains.

Major French banks have also refused to do business with Iran’s financial institutions.

“Despite the efforts made, unfortunately major French banks are refusing to cooperate with Iranian banks in fear of US punitive measures,” Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency reported, citing Ali Ahani, Iran’s Ambassador to France.

“Banking restrictions are intact and money cannot be transferred through the SWIFT international systems,” said Iran’s Aeronautics Organization chief Hamid Pahlavani.

In the meantime, U.S. lawmakers are calling for additional attention to Iran’s use of commercial planes to assist terrorists and raising the stakes by demanding the cancellation of the Boeing deal to sell new planes to Tehran.

“These photos of Boeing executives smiling and glad-handing with a prominent member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps are truly sickening. No self-respecting American should shake Hossein Alaei’s hands. They have American blood on them,” one report in the Washington Free Beacon noted.

It is the same picture on the other side of the Atlantic and further to the East.

“A preliminary deal signed by Bouygues last year to build and run a new terminal at Tehran’s Khomeini airport has been canceled, a spokesman for the French construction group said,” Reuters reported.

“All the positive results of the nuclear deal and lifting of sanctions have been overshadowed by the low prices of oil,” economist Saeed Laylaz told Reuters in a phone interview from Tehran.

All said and done, whatever the result of Iran’s presidential election, the regime has no capacity to abandon the JCPOA.

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