Several weeks into the official adoption of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or nuclear deal, it might finally be time to examine just how the agreement has impacted Iran and its relationship with the West – what has changed, and what hasn’t?
One aspect of Iran that seemingly hasn’t changed since the nuclear deal was finalized is Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s rhetoric on the West (and its perceived nefarious intentions towards Iran), which is as virulent as ever these days. After all, even when the deal was finally signed to great fanfare, the hardline Khamenei stayed on the sidelines, carefully refraining from endorsing the agreement outright, praising the Iranian negotiators while invoking the “spectre of US imperialism.” As usual, right?
Well, not quite. It would seem that recently, Khamenei and other hardliners have gone a step further in their stance towards the West (and particularly the US), prompting media outlets to take a closer look – and to wonder why the nuclear deal has caused the rhetoric to escalate rather than the other way around.
Earlier this month, it was Iran’s apparent attempts to slowly but surely renegotiate the deal which attracted media scrutiny; now, it’s the hardliners’ latest rhetoric on the US, coinciding with the dubious anniversary of the raid on the US embassy in Tehran (or, in their words, the “den of spies”). From Twitter (“fighting heresy guarantees our existence”) to the streets of Tehran, Iran last week marked the 36-year anniversary of what is elsewhere remembered as the hostage crisis, with thousands chanting “Death to America” at rallies (and yet others posting equally malicious slogans online).
It may very well be that nothing has changed in Iran; that the hypocrisy of celebrating the hostage crisis – a celebration of hatred – while extending a hand to Western leaders (and businesses) at the same time is no different this year than it was last year. But some media outlets, such as The New York Times, are already identifying the hardliners’ actions with a post-deal backlash against the US, spelling a “series of increasingly rude awakenings” – including a spate of recent arrests – for “anyone who hoped that Iran’s nuclear agreement with the United States and other powers portended a new era of openness.”
Granted, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has tried to “push back” against the “anti-US crackdown,” including on social media such as Instagram; and yet, why is it that even with sanctions relief imminent, cries of “Death to America” still echo through the streets?