Accessibility links

Breaking News

Persian Letters

Republican supporters cheer as a giant TV screen displays the results of the Senate race in the U.S. midterm elections in Denver, Colorado, on November 4.

With a deadline for a nuclear deal less than three weeks away, many in Iran have focused their attention on the likely impact of the victory of the Republicans in the U.S. midterm elections on the nuclear negotiations between Iran and the United States and other major world powers.

The two sides have set November 24 as the target date for reaching a lasting accord that would end the crisis over Iran's sensitive work and result in the lifting of sanctions against the Islamic republic.

A few Iranian officials who have so far reacted publicly sought to downplay the likely impact of the Republican victory on the ongoing nuclear talks. Analysts, however, warned that the Republicans could increase the pressure on Iran by imposing more sanctions, if a deal is not reached by the target date.

Hamid Aboutalebi, deputy presidential chief of staff for political affairs, offered his analysis on Twitter, a social-media site filtered by Iranian authorities. He said Washington's ties with Iran and the nuclear issues is one of the three crises that the United States is facing.

He added that Iran is a major regional player while claiming that it has "the upper hand" due to the "astute views of [Iran's] supreme leader and the policies of President [Hassan Rohani]."

Aboutalebi then argued that both Republicans and Democrats need Iran for the 2016 presidential election, "especially Republicans who are trying to create a change in the foreign policy."

"Therefore, both U.S. parties will be after reaching a nuclear agreement with Iran and strategic cooperation with Iran in regional issues, especially in fighting ISIL and....," Aboutalebi tweeted.

Iranian Communications and Information Technology Minister Mahmud Vaezi said the victory of the Republicans in the November 4 elections will not have "any effect" on the nuclear negotiations. "We do not see what is happening in the U.S. as a factional shift which will change [the U.S.'s] aims. What has been done in the nuclear negotiations is important and binding, " Vaezi was quoted as saying by the Tasnim news agency.

But former diplomat Ali Khorram, who reportedly advises Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, said that the Obama administration could be forced into taking a harder line in the nuclear negotiations with Iran, if both sides fail to reach a final agreement by November 24. "Obama has to use the remaining time to reach a deal with Iran," Khoram said.

Apparently addressing domestic critics, he said those who oppose the talks "out of ignorance" should "wake up" because he said Iran's national interests could be jeopardized if there was no deal. "We should not allow Republicans to unite with Israel and witness the tensions we saw under [former President] Mahmud Ahmadinejad and George W. Bush because it is not in the interests of Iran and the region," Khorram said in an interview with the official IRNA news agency.

University professor Davoud Hermidas Bavand, also a former diplomat, had a similar analysis. Speaking to the semiofficial ISNA news agency, Bavand said that if the nuclear negotiations fail to bring results, the U.S. Congress would push for more sanctions on Iran, which he said would be "worrying" for the talks.

In the talks succeed in reaching a comprehensive agreement, then he said the impact of the Congress would be minimal.

Analyst Hassan Beheshtipour, described by as an expert on Iran's nuclear dossier, said that even if Iran and the United States reached an agreement by the end of November, Congress could make it difficult for the U.S. government to lift sanctions against Iran.

Another Iranian analyst, university professor Alireza Kouhkan, said the victory of the Republicans in the midterm elections makes a nuclear deal more difficult to achieve. "[It] can strengthen those in Congress who oppose any deal with Iran," he said in an interview with the hard-line Fars news agency.

Analyst Foad Izadi warned that following their victory on November 4, Republicans are likely to move to confront Iran. "The problem the Islamic republic has had with the U.S. Congress in the past 30 years is likely to become more tangible in the coming days and months."

-- Golnaz Esfandiari

A woman steps on a U.S. flag outside the former U.S. embassy in Tehran.

The United States remains "the Great Satan" despite nuclear negotiations between Iran and Washington, Iranian hard-liners conveyed in a November 4 message marking the 35th anniversary of the takeover of the U.S. embassy in the Islamic republic.

The statement was issued by anti-U.S. demonstrators who gathered outside the former U.S. embassy in Tehran -- dubbed the "Nest of Spies" -- and called for resistance against the United States, which they decried as an oppressor.

The Iranian people still consider the United States their main enemy, the demonstrators said in the statement issued at the annual rally, which coincided with the religious Ashura holiday that commemorates the killing of the venerated Shi'ite spiritual leader Imam Hussein in 680 C.E.

They called for the removal of all "unilateral" and "unjust" sanctions against the Islamic republic, while also expressing support for the Iranian nuclear negotiators and emphasizing the need to follow the guidelines set by Iran's supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, to defend Iran’s "inalienable rights."

Iran’s conservative-dominated parliament should also be vigilant regarding any potential nuclear agreement, according to the statement.

The rally’s main speaker, cleric Alireza Panahian, said that even if November 4 were not the anniversary of the hostage-taking by radical students in 1979, the slogan "Death to America" would have been chanted in the sermons.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and the government’s nuclear negotiators should receive a pay raise because they negotiate with "savages," Panahian added.

"When someone is dispatched for a mission to a region with an unpleasant climate, they provide them with a special allowance due to the bad climate they have to suffer from," Panahian was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency.

"Therefore, our nuclear negotiators should receive a pay rise due to the toughness of their work and for negotiating with wild individuals," he continued. "And we hereby tell the arrogant [power] that if you do not come to your senses, then we will make you come to your senses."

Meanwhile, in a November 4 article headlined "The Ethos Of U.S. Embassy Takeover," the hard-line Fars news agency, which is close to the powerful Revolutionary Guards, listed reasons why Tehran opposes the United States.

These include the 1953 coup d'etat in Iran which saw Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosadegh overthrown, as well as the 2002 designation of Iran as part of an "Axis of Evil" by former U.S. President George W. Bush.

The Fars article argued that it is understandable that Tehran is "hesitant" about the results of the nuclear talks with Washington.

"Tehran has legitimate questions that need to be addressed before it could even start contemplating trusting Washington ever again," the news agency said in its report.

Another hard-line media outlet, the Tasnim news agency, reported over the weekend that according to a new poll, distrust toward the United States among citizens in Tehran has slightly increased during the past year.

Tasnim claimed that the number of Teheranis who agree with the idea that "America is not trustworthy at all" has increased to 63 percent, up from 61 percent a year ago.

The poll was conducted by the social science alumni society of Tehran University, Tasnim reported without providing details on the methodology used or the number of respondents.

Fars reported that 54 percent of the respondents in the poll said U.S. policies toward Iran have not changed since Iranian President Hassan Rohani came to power last year.

"Twenty percent believe U.S. stances have 'improved,' and 23 percent consider it 'worse' compared to before," Tasnim reported.

Polls conducted in Iran are widely regarded as unreliable.

-- Golnaz Esfandiari

Load more

About This Blog

Persian Letters is a blog that offers a window into Iranian politics and society. Written primarily by Golnaz Esfandiari, Persian Letters brings you under-reported stories, insight and analysis, as well as guest Iranian bloggers -- from clerics, anarchists, feminists, Basij members, to bus drivers.


Latest Posts