Political conflict within Iran risks derailing nuclear agreement with the West

The tough line taken by Iranian politicians mirrors that of Republicans in the US Congress, who are pushing for more sanctions on Tehran


As Iran and world powers move closer to a long-term agreement over the Islamic republic’s nuclear activities, domestic political struggles are threatening to undermine the diplomatic process, which both the White House and the administration of Iran’s President, Hassan Rouhani, say is on the right track.

Despite wide public support and the approval of blocs of politicians and clerics, a range of opponents, mostly in Iran’s parliament, worry they could lose influence if a solution to the nuclear dispute is struck without their involvement.

The tough line taken by Iranian politicians mirrors that of Republicans in the US Congress, who are pushing for more sanctions on Tehran. President Obama has vowed to veto any new sanctions legislation while talks are ongoing.

Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, told the German Council on Foreign Relations that, “with goodwill, we can reach an agreement within six months.” But sceptics in Tehran and Washington caution against rushing into a deal that could favour the other side.

With new talks scheduled to begin in Vienna on 18 February, these figures are becoming increasingly critical of the Islamic republic’s negotiating team.

“The West has not shown any serious intention to solve this issue that they created,” Vahid Ahmadi, a cleric and politician who sits on the parliament’s foreign policy commission, said in a session of parliament on Monday. “Although we will keep our commitments, we will never cross our red line, which is to maintain our nuclear achievements.”

Since the nuclear dossier was transferred to the control of Iran’s Foreign Ministry, the hardline press and conservative members of the parliament have sought more oversight in future rounds of nuclear talks, citing a lack of transparency as their biggest complaint.

“I am telling our nation that we are neither informed of foreign policies of this government nor of what they are doing domestically. They are doing whatever they like,” Mehdi Kouchakzadeh, a  harsh critic of the government, said in parliament on Monday.

On Sunday, in a sign that conservatives may be regaining some political clout, members of the foreign policy commission said they had reached an agreement with the administration to add a member of parliament to the negotiating team, which will probably quiet some of the loudest critics among them.

Members of Iran’s political establishment who have long argued that the conflict with the United States is an existential one, and who consider normalised relations incongruous with decades of anti-Western policy and rhetoric, stand to lose the most if a compromise is reached.

For these hardliners, “the mere reaching of an agreement will cause an ideological crisis,” said the US-based Iran analyst Farideh Farhi.

Beyond the political arena, there are others profiting financially from sanctions on Iran who would lose if conditions are normalised.

“There are many vested interests that see little benefit in Iran opening up to the world. These interests are both political and economic, and sometimes both,” said Mohammad Ali Shabani, a Tehran-based analyst.

The most notorious case is that of Babak Zanjani, who amassed billions of dollars selling oil that illegally evaded sanctions. Zanjani is being held in Tehran’s Evin prison on corruption charges.

In addition to well-connected syndicates, countless smaller players are earning large returns on smuggling goods ranging from cars to basic foodstuffs. Currency speculators also fall into this category and have profited heavily from the discrepancy between official and street rates.

“Our people expect the President to expose those who are exploiting the sanctions to the nation and judiciary,” Kamaloddin Pir Moazen told fellow members of the parliament this week.

While identifying many of the individuals and entities illegally profiting from sanctions is difficult, there are also Iranian companies, including car makers, food producers and petrochemical firms, that benefit from the lack of competition caused by sanctions.

“It’s not only sanctions exploiters who see rapprochement as inopportune. Many sectors of the Iranian economy are essentially run as monopolies. A truly free market, fully integrated into the global economy, will lead to the downfall of these entities,” Mr Shabani said.

Despite these vocal opponents of compromise, there is consensus among the majority of the political establishment, as well as Iran’s business community, that finding a solution to the decade-long nuclear dispute would serve the country’s interests.

“The Iranians would like very much to have a deal, but they’re not willing to give up their sovereignty,” said Mohammad Marandi, a professor at Tehran University. 

© The Washington Post

Stephanie first after her public appearance as a woman at Rad Fest 2014

Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol
art'Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' followed hoax reports artist had been arrested and unveiled
Oscar Pistorius is led out of court in Pretoria. Pistorius received a five-year prison sentence for culpable homicide by judge Thokozile Masipais for the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp
voicesThokozile Masipa simply had no choice but to jail the athlete
Life and Style

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Russell Brand at an anti-austerity march in June
peopleActor and comedian says 'there's no point doing it if you're not'
Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'


Endangered species spotted in a creek in the Qinling mountains

Life and Style

Company says data is only collected under 'temporary' identities that are discarded every 15 minutes

peopleJust weeks after he created dress for Alamuddin-Clooney wedding
Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Life and Style

Some experiencing postnatal depression don't realise there is a problem. What can be done?

Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Pensions Administrator

£23000 - £26000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

*****English/Maths Teacher*****

£110 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Preston: English/Maths Teacher require...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Nursery Assistant and Nursery nurse...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel your sales role is l...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album