The December 5 issue of the weekly Sobhe Sadeq, the political organ of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), was filled with commentaries on the recent passage of the Iran Sanctions Extension Act (ISA) by the U.S. Congress that have important implications for Iran’s domestic politics as well as nuclear policies.
The ISA, an extra-territorial sanction, was scheduled to sunset on Dec. 31. The act authorizes the United States to penalize foreign entities that make a substantial investment in Iran’s energy sector. The new bill extends this authority for another ten years. According to the White House, President Barack Obama is expected to sign the bill into law.
The extension of the ISA does not violate the Iran nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA, known in Farsi as Barjam), because the extension does not reinstate sanctions that the U.S. administration has committed to waive. This commitment to waive sanctions was put into place under the JCPOA.
The JCPOA will be violated if and when the U.S. administration refuses to waive the sanctions that are stipulated in the ISA. The extension of the ISA does not change any of the conditions that were signed and agreed upon by Iran when the nuclear deal came into force.
Hamid Baeidinejad, a senior member of Iran’s nuclear negotiating team and recently appointed Iranian ambassador to London, has said, “Although the ISA, due to be signed off by the U.S. president, will be extended for another ten years, snapping back the sanctions that are stipulated in the JCPOA and suspended thereof will need a separate decision by the U.S. administration. If these sanctions are re-implemented, it would be an outright violation of the JCPOA. The nuclear deal has suspended the implementation of [critical and major parts] of the ISA according to Appendix II of the JCPOA under six articles.”
Despite these facts, Iranian hardline publications have been quick to seize on the ISA renewal as a violation of the JCPOA and to urge the government of President Hassan Rouhani to retaliate in ways that could seriously undermine the agreement.
The Sobhe Sadeq editorial titled “Violation of Barjam a golden opportunity for Iran.” maintains that the Americans view Barjam as “a tool to erode the authority of the Islamic Republic by attempting to not only halt Iran’s increasing empowerment but also to gradually transform our country into an ally and a client country thus solidifying the position of the Zionist regime in the region.” It adds, “Therefore, Barjam is viewed as a step toward this goal … and is not aimed at ending the conflict and confrontation [between Iran and the U.S.] in the framework of a fair agreement.”
Without naming names, the editorial fiercely attacks President Rouhani and his administration, mainly those who were key to the conclusion of the JCPOA.
“Showing enthusiasm and excitement about the possible outcomes of a nuclear deal [by a political current in Iran], not only triggered the greed of wolfish American officials to use coercive tools when needed, but also convinced them that the implementation of the JCPOA has serious supporters in Iran. These supporters magnify the unreal outcomes of the deal and act as advocates of the corrupt current in America. This will result in the creation of a rift within the ‘axis of resistance’ [against the United States and Israel] and lead to its destabilization,” the editorial read.
It continued: “Taking the above points into consideration, the recent [donkey]-kicking of the Americans and the violation of the JCPOA has created the best opportunity for the Islamic Republic of Iran to present this case of perfidy to the people of the world and, by proving that the JCPOA has been violated by the U.S., prepare the ground for retaliatory actions.
“Parallel to the measures [that should be taken] our officials [meaning Rouhani and his team] should change their behavior and talk to people with honesty … They should tell people about the Americans officials’ actions that are in violation of the JCPOA instead of applying cosmetics to the face of the promise-breakers [trying to justify them].”
In a separate commentary, influential Brigadier General Yadollah Javani, the founder of Sobhe Sadeq and one of the top theoreticians of the IRGC, wrote, “In this deal, in practical terms, the Iranian nation will be the loser. Barjam is nothing but a total loss.”
According to Javani, now that the true face of the Americans has been revealed, “the necessary conditions for pushing forward the country’s nuclear program, as was exercised in the past, should immediately be prepared.”
The answer to the question of why the IRGC, the most powerful and organized force of the radical faction of the Iranian establishment, is so adamant to scuttle the JCPOA can be found in another editorial by Sobhe Sadeq. It was published on November 14 and read, “Foreign policy, particularly Barjam, is the point of strength and the winning card for the eleventh administration (Rouhani’s) in next year’s [presidential] elections [emphasis added].”
It is in this context that the radicals’ relentless efforts and clamorous calls for the dismantlement of the nuclear deal can be understood. Their fierce opposition to the deal is not about the country’s national interest or preserving its independence. They view Barjam as a “winning card” and “a point of strength” for their moderate opponents in the upcoming presidential election scheduled to be held in May 2017. If they have any hope of defeating Rouhani, they need to tear up this card.
Shahir Shahidsaless is an Iranian-Canadian political analyst and freelance journalist writing about Iranian domestic and foreign affairs, the Middle East, and the US foreign policy in the region. He is the co-author of Iran and the United States: An Insider’s View on the Failed Past and the Road to Peace. He is a contributor to several websites with focus on the Middle East as well as the Huffington Post. He also regularly writes for BBC Persian. He tweets @SShahisaless