Washington isn’t the only capital divided over the nuclear issue: Tehran, too, has become the site of a growing struggle between those who support Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s increased engagement with the West and hardliners opposed to it.
The first camp, which various news sites have called the moderate or reformist camp, has faced harsh criticism from the second camp, which is said to be backed by conservative Islamist elements led by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The most recent spat between the two camps played out last week over live television, when an interview with Rouhani on state television was delayed by more than an hour and a half, reportedly due to a dispute over the identity of the interviewer, with the Rouhani camp favoring female journalist and reformist sympathizer Sonia Pouryamin and the TV network opting for a former backer of hawkish ex-president Ahmadinejad.
The “power struggle,” as the LA Times called it, was eventually resolved over an hour later by allowing both reporters to pose questions to the president. But the spat went on over other channels, with IRNA accusing the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) group of foiling “the live interview of Rouhani with the people,” an accusation echoed by Rouhani himself on Twitter.
Considering that the head of the IRIB, Ezatollah Zarghami, was appointed by Khamenei himself, it’s no surprise that the controversy over the interview – followed in detail by Al Monitor’s Arash Karami, as well as other Western reporters – made such dramatic waves in the media, with Iranian media outlets allied with one of the camps rushing to join the fray. Just another example of how political instability plays out in the media and media events.