Both Iran and the EU confirmed this week that talks over a final-status nuclear deal would resume on December 17 in Geneva. Expectations that the negotiations will finally bear fruit this time are already on the rise within the Iranian business community, where their extension until June is seen by many as just “the postponement of an inevitable thaw” between Iran and the rest of the world.
But will the Iranian government be able to meet these expectations, in spite of the divisions within it?
You’d better ask Iranian President Hassan Rouhani about that: in November, after rejecting several candidates supported by Rouhani, the Iranian parliament finally approved his nominee for the position of science minister – Mohammad Farhadi, the fifth candidate to be considered.
And if appointing a science minister has proved so difficult for Rouhani, what about winning support for his diplomatic policies? It’s not like the other members of Rouhani’s government are rallying behind his moderate ideals: Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani recently suggested that the negotiations could be supported within Iran by encouraging greater civil participation in the Basij militia; the head of the Basij himself, Mohammad Reza Naqdi, said that if Iran had “honor,” it would know it has “no need of the West … and its unwillingness to reach an agreement”; the head of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council said Tehran would not accept the US framework for a gradual removal of sanctions “under any circumstances”; Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan said in response to the 7-month extension that “the Islamic Republic cannot rely on the West;” and a senior representative of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC) accused the US of aiming to make a “mockery” of Iran’s nuclear sites
And Khamenei himself? In particularly harsh comments last month, he warned Iran would not be “brought to its knees” in the talks. Could his triumphalist rhetoric be aimed at preparing Iranians for a deal, as Christian Science Monitor’s Scott Peterson suggests – or, as suggested in a recent Economist editorial, at giving hardliners greater leeway to criticize an embattled Rouhani?