Iran’s election campaign is heating up. Beyond the weekend debate, in a broader sense the past week’s declarations have been quite an eye opener.
The media was all over it, for sure. But from our point of view, the “news” coming out of the debate is not that Rouhani and Velayati attacked Jalili – they’re running for office, after all – but the common denominator among them all: an unwavering commitment to reaching the nuclear threshold and beyond. Let’s take a closer look.
“Well, Dr. Jalili, speaking of diplomacy, it’s not a philosophy class to say that our logic was strong,” said Velayati, responding to Jalili’s efforts to defend his performance. “You have been in charge of the nuclear issue, we have not made a step forward, and the [sanctions] pressure has been exerted on the people.”
Velayati portrayed the talks in Almaty as wasted opportunities for Iran, hinting that Jalili should have accepted the offer as an interim step.
“All of our problems stem from this – that we didn’t make the utmost effort to prevent the [nuclear] dossier from going to the UN Security Council,” Mr. Rohani said.
“We suspended it? We mastered the (nuclear) technology!” The 64-year-old argued the Islamic Republic had expanded uranium enrichment during his tenure while demonstrating the program’s peaceful nature and preventing a US military attack.
“We didn’t allow Iran to be attacked.”
The campaign declarations indicate a clear attempt to mesh the nuclear and economic issues. But when decoupled, observers are left with the inescapable sense that what the candidates actually want is to continue advancing the nuclear program while avoiding the consequences – whether diplomatic resolutions, political isolation, economic pressure or the threat of force.
It won’t wash.