Iran’s propaganda during its negotiations on the nuclear agreement around three years ago was based on claims that the deal will lead to peace in the region and end the long row. Unlike what’s commonly known about it, Tehran expanded its propaganda to include Iranian communities outside Iran, most of whom have not been in harmony with the regime ever since the revolution erupted.
Some figures who defended the nuclear deal in favor of the Iranian regime actually oppose the latter. This unfamiliar reconciliation between the two opposing parties was intriguing so I inquired about it. Some commended the influence of the Iranian lobby while others said the reconciliation was a result of the former American administration’s pressure on opposing parties. Of course some believe the opposition supported the deal although it was against the regime.
A positive image
I think Hassan Rowhani’s government made a lot of effort and succeeded in drawing a positive image about a future Iran. It promised reconciliation and positive change that will end the rupture of relations with around 5 million Iranians in exile, most of whom live in the West. At the time, Rowhani’s and Mohammad Javad Zarif’s message focused on the Iranians outside Iran and called on all of them, despite their different political orientations, to support their country’s right to possess nuclear weapons and to separate this right from their dispute with the regime. Some Iranian elites in the US echoed this proposition as they were convinced that Iran will change towards the best and become tolerant and open.
I do not know though what does this opposition that defended the nuclear deal think now after signing and implementing the agreement? Did they sense any indicators that the regime treats them and the Iranians better than before?
We did not sense any change in the regime’s behavior as its suppression increased and began to include those affiliated with the regime, such as the children of late Iranian leader Hashemi Rafsanjani and figures close to former president Mohammad Khatami. A number of figures affiliated with Rowhani were recently arrested as part of the never-ending game of balances.
Ever since JCPOA was signed between Iran and the West in July 2015, we did not hear this Iranian elite – whether inside or outside Iran – mention any progress by the regime towards becoming a tolerant civil society as promised. Therefore, we do not know what game will Rowhani resort to again to mobilize people like he did last time.
The first time he succeeded at gaining people’s support, he appealed to their patriotic sentiment and said the nuclear project is for all of Iran and not just for the regime. He convinced them it’s a scientific and cultural pride and noted that lifting the ban of Iran will make the Iranians’ life better. The Iranians must certainly be proud of their achievements but not when they are just another means towards more wars and domination. The nuclear deal empowered oppressive apparatuses like the Revolutionary Guards. Iran willingly continued to engage in battles as despite the international ban and siege, it never stopped spending billions of dollars on armed groups in Gaza, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Yemen. This is in addition to spending funds on a large network of extremist groups in Africa, Southeast Asia and South America.
I expect Rowhani’s government to confuse the Iranian people who live under the influence of the regime’s media, just like North Korea. The government will picture the US’s decision as aggression against the Iranians and as an attempt to restrain their lives, especially that the US has previously imposed a ban on US visas for Iranians. Washington must clarify its stance to the Iranian people and note that imposing sanctions on Tehran’s government again is not inevitable as it has rather given it a chance to pledge that it will end its military adventures and stop funding extremist groups outside Iran. The American conditions are supposed to be supported by the Iranian majority which has had enough of the regime’s behavior and practices which squander their money on militias across the world.
This article is also available in Arabic.
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. He tweets @aalrashed.