In response to statements made by U.S. President Barack Obama in a May 13, 2015 interview with the London-based daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, that a nuclear deal would strengthen the moderate leaders in Iran, the daily's former editor and former director of Al-Arabiya, 'Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed, wrote that the deal is likely to do the opposite, namely empower Iran's hardliners. Al-Rashed pointed out that the hawks in the Iranian regime were already boasting that the West had capitulated and agreed to lift sanctions, while the Iranian nuclear program was nearly complete. Their current confidence is also evident in a recent fierce clampdown on political rivals and dissidents, he said. Al-Rashed added that the moderates in the Iranian regime may have been strengthened if Washington had linked the deal to Tehran's halting its harmful intervention in other countries.
The following are excerpts from his article, as it appeared on May 13, 2015 in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat's English edition:
'Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed (Image: English.alarabiya.net)
"There is an illusion that the promised agreement with Iran regarding its nuclear program will push it toward moderation, as well as economic and political openness. What will probably happen is the complete opposite. The agreement will empower Tehran's hawks, who are currently being marketed in Iran and who are bragging that most of the nuclear program has been accomplished and that the West has finally submitted and abandoned sanctions.
"During the past few months of international negotiations, Iran's security fist tightened against state rivals, voicing the regime's self-confidence. The Kurdish rebellion a week ago in the city of Mahabad, northwest Iran, was to protest security forces' practices. A girl whom a military officer tried to rape jumped off a balcony, and the Kurdish minority - whose population is 8 million - revolted. Cruelty is behind growing anger in the outskirts of this multiethnic state. In addition to the armed Iranian opposition (People's Mojahedin of Iran), the number of anti-regime armed groups has increased.
"The civil opposition in Tehran fears that signing the nuclear agreement with the West will, unlike what is being promoted in Washington, serve the interests of regime hardliners. The struggle between moderates and hardliners within the state is no secret. The only case when Iran was led by a moderate was under popular leader Mohammed Khatami, who was president from 1997 until 2005. Khatami was met with clerics' expanded war against the entire moderate movement. He was replaced by extremist Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, who led Iran to its current situation of more extremism and militarism, and thus engaging in wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen.
"The Iranian Revolutionary Guards are also active domestically trying to suppress sedition, as they have done in Mahabad and Balochistan province in the southwest. They have also increased their presence in Khuzestan province, where there is a restive Arab population. The government has previously faced considerable difficulties in taming its Azeri citizens.
"Tehran still remembers the huge uprising that erupted after the rigged elections in 2009, which lasted until Feb. 2010. That revolt was led by reformists from within the regime, and they all ended up in jail.
"By signing the nuclear agreement, the hardliners will feel more confident, aware that foreign threats will have been neutralized and that no one will be able to confront them. If Washington had linked the deal to conditions obliging Tehran to halt its military adventures in exchange for ending international sanctions and a pledge that the West will not militarily target Iran, the situation of the moderates within the theocratic regime may have been enhanced.
"The agreement will grant hardliners two gifts. The first is that lifting economic sanctions will fill their treasury with funds to manage their battles. The second is that they will have a stronger status within the regime and against moderate clerics and politicians."