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Iran's ultras capitalize on U.S. exit from nuclear pact

Rohani and his allies seize the EU to try to save the agreement and its political future

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Iran's ultras capitalize on U.S. exit from nuclear pact

The US withdrawal from nuclear agreement has been a low blow to Iran's president, Hasan Rohani, and coalition of moderate and reformist conservatives that supports him. Since last Tuesday, ultras who are contesting power do not lose opportunity to remind m that y had already warned of Washington's lack of reliability. The split between ruling elites is evidenced by attempt to save pact with help of European Union (EU), to which government seizes like a clove burning against disdain of its political rivals.

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"Trump has encouraged Iranians to vote for extremists," sums up Mehdi Zakerian, professor of political science and president of Iranian Association for International Studies.

Although re are no presidential elections up to 2021, ultras are rubbing ir hands convinced that president has been touched for remainder of his term and that y will recover Parliament in next year's legislatures.

"Rohani and reformists are between sword and wall, and that favors Conservatives," attends veteran politologist Davoud Hermidas-Bavand, who mainly concern economic effects. "People have reached a high level of frustration and can not rule out a social explosion, or that neighboring countries try to capitalize on that dissatisfaction," he warns. That is why it considers it crucial for EU to "resist Trump's pressures" on its companies and to defend Integral Joint Action Plan ("pleasure"), official name of agreement.

But not even most pro-pact analysts have much hope. "Europeans haven't done enough [to rein in Trump]. We trusted m when we were invited to nuclear negotiations because we had no interest. We close Arak and Fordo. We allow IAEA verifications that certified our commitment. And what has it served? "he wonders Zakerian visibly disappointed.

"Iran goes to abandon pleasure, following footsteps of Trump," says Foad Izadi, professor of international relations at University of Tehran. "It is true that a few weeks have been given to explore possibility of continuing with EU but, in light of experience, it may not see benefit of continuing without US," he adds without hiding his skepticism.

A Ayatollah wants apologies

Ayatollah Ahmad Janati, a ultraconsevador cleric who presides over assembly of experts, has asked President Hasan Rohani to "apologize to Iranian people for damage he has caused [ country] in framework of nuclear agreement." In his opinion, expressed in a statement echoed by Agence France Presse, "to remain in pact without obtaining clear guarantees [of EU] does not secure interests of Iran." His words are an obvious match with critics of pleasure, who try to capitalize on his abandonment by United States. The Assembly of experts is body responsible for appointment (and eventual cessation) of Supreme leader.

All analysts mention difficulty of solving problem of European companies with interests in United States and that, faced with risk of being subject of new sanctions in that country, y will not risk working with Iran. But Iranian petitions go far beyond that. According to European sources, Tehran wants EU to commit itself to solving bank blockade and to continue buying oil. It also seeks compensation without need for loss of value of agreement after U.S. exit.

The target seems unattainable. Still, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has embarked on a visit to or signatories of pact, China, Russia, and EU, in a last effort to save him. Most Iranians are clear that Rohani is not responsible for failure of pleasure, but most conservative argue that ir approach has failed and are committed to a more firm strategy.

"The US exit tries to break resistance of Iranians, something that is not new (...) But problem today is not US sanctions, but some authorities seek solutions outside rar than within [ country], "said chief of Guardians of Revolution (Pasdarán), General Mohammad Ali Jafari. The military said last Wednesday his doubts about ability of European countries to save pleasure.

"Rohani has defrauded Iranians and is paying price for betting on deal. His speech after Trump's announcement seemed like a funeral. His expression and that of ministers present denoted concern both for Iran and for its political future. As things are moving, it is not disposable to repeat what happened after [ president of reformist] Khatami with election of [radical] Ahmadinejad, "warns Izadi.

Some ultras, like deputy Mohammad Ali Purmokhtar, are even agitating idea of a military for presidency. Although Constitution prohibits members of armed forces from engaging in politics, it does not prevent m from participating in elections once y hang uniform.

"Iranians do not favor candidates with a military past as seen when y presented Baquer Ghalibaf [former mayor of Tehran] or former head of Pasdarán Mohsen Rezaei, who tried it up to four times. I do not think anor is going to be more successful, but maybe Trump encouraged some to vote in that direction, "concludes Zakerian.


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