The nuclear deal will empower Iran’s hardliners

By signing the nuclear agreement, the hardliners will feel more confident

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

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There is an illusion that the promised agreement with Iran regarding its nuclear program will push it toward moderation, as well as economic and political openness. What will probably happen is the complete opposite. The agreement will empower Tehran’s hawks, who are currently being marketed in Iran and who are bragging that most of the nuclear program has been accomplished and that the West has finally submitted and abandoned sanctions.

During the past few months of international negotiations, Iran’s security fist tightened against state rivals, voicing the regime’s self-confidence. The Kurdish rebellion a week ago in the city of Mahabad, northwest Iran, was to protest security forces’ practices. A girl whom a military officer tried to rape jumped off a balcony, and the Kurdish minority - whose population is 8 million - revolted.

Cruelty is behind growing anger in the outskirts of this multiethnic state. In addition to the armed Iranian opposition (People's Mojahedin of Iran), the number of anti-regime armed groups has increased.

Military adventures

The civil opposition in Tehran fears that signing the nuclear agreement with the West will, unlike what is being promoted in Washington, serve the interests of regime hardliners. The struggle between moderates and hardliners within the state is no secret. The only case when Iran was led by a moderate was under popular leader Mohammed Khatami, who was president from 1997 until 2005.

By signing the nuclear agreement, the hardliners will feel more confident, aware that foreign threats will have been neutralized and that no one will be able to confront them

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Khatami was met with clerics’ expanded war against the entire moderate movement. He was replaced by extremist Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, who led Iran to its current situation of more extremism and militarism, and thus engaging in wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen.

The Iranian Revolutionary Guards are also active domestically trying to suppress sedition, as they have done in Mahabad and Balochistan province in the southwest. They have also increased their presence in Khuzestan province, where there is a restive Arab population. The government has previously faced considerable difficulties in taming its Azeri citizens.

Tehran still remembers the huge uprising that erupted after the rigged elections in 2009, which lasted until Feb. 2010. That revolt was led by reformists from within the regime, and they all ended up in jail.

By signing the nuclear agreement, the hardliners will feel more confident, aware that foreign threats will have been neutralized and that no one will be able to confront them. If Washington had linked the deal to conditions obliging Tehran to halt its military adventures in exchange for ending international sanctions and a pledge that the West will not militarily target Iran, the situation of the moderates within the theocratic regime may have been enhanced.

The agreement will grant hardliners two gifts. The first is that lifting economic sanctions will fill their treasury with funds to manage their battles. The second is that they will have a stronger status within the regime and against moderate clerics and politicians.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on May 10, 2015.

Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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