In a sign that Iran’s electoral politics may now play a part in determining the future trajectory of US-Iran relations, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani has accused hardliners of undermining efforts to lift the US sanctions. Rouhani’s accusations come amidst the fact that the hardliners who currently dominate the Majlis [the majority of conservative members won a sweeping victory in the parliamentary polls last year and are confident again of winning this year’s June polls] are opposed to re-entering the nuclear deal with the US.
Rouhani will not be running in the June polls and the fact that the Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif had earlier warned the US that the “window of opportunity” was closing for re-entering the JCPOA suggests that Iran’s reformists may be getting desperate. Internal anger has been rising within the country as unemployment and inflation levels have been rising leading to large-scale protests. The reformists who had promised a re-entry into the deal would mean the end of sanctions, and an easing of harsh economic conditions, are bearing the brunt of this anger.
The reformists problem is compounded by the fact that so far, the Biden administration seems in no way inclined to throw them a lifeline. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated earlier this month Washington would not provide “concessions” to Iran before the talks on salvaging the JCPOA begin. “I think the ball is in their court to see if they are serious about engaging or not,” he said. This wait and watch approach by Washington suggests it remains unmindful of Iran’s recent threats that it will enhance uranium to move towards nuclear weapons. This spells trouble for Rouhani and ensures that regional tensions in West Asia are far from being stabilised.