November 6, 2014 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1129

Iran's Ideological Camp Fears The Possibility Of A Nuclear Agreement Between Iran And The P5+1, Warns Rohani Government

November 6, 2014 | By A. Savyon, Yossi Mansharof, and E. Kharrazi*
Iran | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1129


Both the U.S. administration and Iran's pragmatic camp were last week preparing public opinion in their respective countries for the possibility that a nuclear agreement will be reached between Iran and the P5+1 by the November 24, 2014 deadline.[1] According to the emerging contours of the agreement, Tehran will apparently be allowed to operate 4,000 to 6,000 first-generation centrifuges,[2] and in return, in a move that will not require Congressional approval, the U.S. administration will suspend American sanctions.

The pragmatic camp in Iran, headed by Hashemi Rafsanjani and his proxy President Hassan Rohani, is pressuring the White House to reach an agreement with Iran right now, and identifying President Obama as "the weakest American president."[3] At the same time, this camp's leaders are laying the groundwork for obtaining Iranian approval for an agreement.

On October 22, 2014, President Rohani emphasized the need for engaging and negotiating with the enemy, framing doing so as the lesson that should be taken from the Shi'ite legend of Karbala – in contrast to the interpretation of these events commonly accepted in Iran.[4] On October 27, the pragmatic camp's main organ, the Jomhouri-ye Eslami daily, called on the ideological camp not to sabotage the emerging agreement, stressed that the agreement was within the red lines set out by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, and warned the Khamenei camp that it must not cause Iran to miss this golden opportunity.

Furthermore, on November 2, 2014, two days before the nation marked the anniversary of the 1979 seizure of the U.S. Embassy and capture of its staff in Tehran, which this year coincides with Iran's Ashura rituals, Ali Khorram, senior advisor to Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, told the reformist pro-Rohani newspaper Shargh that U.S.-Iran relations are now no longer hostile, and are even "friendly." He claimed there had been a change for the better in U.S. policy, that the two countries need not wait for Judgment Day to trust each other, and that the time had come for them to end the hostility between them. He also said that they had common interests in Iraq and Syria, and that the Americans considered the U.S. Embassy takeover an "old wound."[5]

In contrast, the ideological camp is alarmed at the prospect of an imminent nuclear deal, voicing its apprehensions that the national interests of the regime would be damaged and that there would be a U.S.-Iran rapprochement. On October 28, 2014, the day after Jomhouri-ye Eslami called on the ideological camp to refrain from sabotaging the agreement, Majlis member Ali Reza Zakani urged the Iranian security apparatuses to intervene, and warned the negotiating team that it would bear responsibility for a "bad agreement" that both crossed the regime's red lines and failed to completely lift the sanctions.

At the same time, the daily Kayhan, which is close to Khamenei, attacked the emerging agreement from two angles: First, the agreement crosses Khamenei's red lines and fails to immediately lift all anti-Iran sanctions, and second, following the defeat for U.S. President Barack Obama in the November 4 midterm elections, Iran could, in another decade, according to the newspaper, come to a possible negotiating table as a nuclear power with tens of thousands of advanced-generation centrifuges. It urged the negotiating team not only to not be deterred by White House threats that once the newly elected Republicans take office the sanctions will be increased and thus Iran should sign an agreement now, but also that Iran must give the U.S. an ultimatum. The newspaper also warned of plots and of an organized scheme led by "the men of fitna" past and present – hinting at collaboration among pragmatic camp leaders Rafsanjani and Rohani and Green Movement leaders and former presidential candidates Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, both of whom have been under house arrest for several years for what the regime alleges was their role in the unrest of the 2009 presidential election. He was also hinting at coordination between them and the West, in order to anesthetize the public and Iran's elites into inaction so that a nuclear agreement could be attained "no matter what the cost." The paper also warned President Rohani to follow the orders issued by Khamenei on the nuclear negotiations, and even to refrain from talking with the U.S.

The website Afsaran, which is close to security circles, also expressed fears that Iranian negotiating team chief and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif – and by allusion his entire camp – is seeking to depose Khamenei by securing a nuclear deal with the U.S.

This paper will review the reaction of Iran's ideological camp to the possibility of an Iran-P5+1 nuclear agreement:

The Pragmatic Camp: Laying The Groundwork For An Agreement, Urging Ideologues To Accept It

Rohani: From Imam Hussein And The Legend Of Karbala, We Learn We Must Engage And Negotiate

In his October 22, 2014 speech in Zanjan, in northwest Iran, Rohani called on the ideological camp to accept his camp's policy of engaging the U.S., depicting the legend of Imam Hussein's martyrdom at Karbala as a paradigm justifying negotiating with the enemy, rather than its customary interpretation of promoting martydom. He said: "The lesson and message of Imam Hussein is brotherhood, unity, forgiveness, [and] accepting the other's side's repentance. The lesson of Karbala is one of constructive engagement and negotiation, as part of the logic and the instructions [of the religion or the leader]."[6]

This statement provoked considerable criticism from the ideological camp, especially from Khamenei's close associate and the editor of Kayhan, Hossein Shariatmadari. Shariatmadari accused Rohani of distorting the Karbala legend, stressing that the only way to follow its example was to hold fast and to resist the oppressive enemies, even at the price of martyrdom in following God's path.[7]

Jomhouri-ye Eslami: The Agreement's Opponents Must Not Make Iran Miss This Chance To Resolve The Nuclear Issue

On October 27, 2014, Jomhouri-ye Eslami wrote: "For over a week, there have been positive reports from both within and without [Iran] about the progress in the Iran-P5+1 nuclear negotiations – within Iran, from statements [by officials from] President Rohani himself to the foreign minister and members of the negotiating team, and outside Iran from senior Russian, Chinese, German, French and American officials. All have emphasized the imminence of a comprehensive nuclear agreement signed by November 25...

"While it is true that there may be some changes in the decision before all members of the P5+1 sign the agreement, it is clear – and this must be noted – that there is practically zero disagreement [among the parties]. Thus, in contrast to what is depicted in the Iranian media, all the parties are more optimistic than ever that the agreement will be signed by November 25. Under the agreement, Iran is satisfied with regard to [what is agreed about] the sanctions, the centrifuges, the [uranium] enrichment, and the nuclear facilities; according to some conservative leaders, the agreement is a victory for Iran...

"Those within [Iran] who oppose the nuclear agreement must be aware of reality – this opportunity to resolve the issue must not be missed. This is because the agreement was drafted within the framework of [Iran's] national interests and is within the red lines that were set out; also, as senior members of the negotiating team and President Rohani himself have emphasized several times, Iran will not back down one single inch from its [nuclear] right. Additionally, the entire Iranian nation desires to reach an agreement that [both] includes the nation's right and conclusively resolves the nuclear issue. Therefore, everyone must work for the success of the negotiating team and must refrain from taking measures and from [disseminating] propaganda that will cause problems on this path.[8]

In Ideological Camp, Great Fear Of The Emerging Agreement

Majlis Member Zakani: The Agreement Crosses The Regime's Red Lines; I Am Asking The Security Apparatuses To Act; The Negotiating Team Will Be Held Responsible

In an October 28, 2014 Majlis speech, Majlis member Ali Reza Zakani warned: "News is coming in that an agreement has been reached between Iran and America. According to this information, red lines set out by the Islamic regime are crossed in it. I hereby warn the foreign minister on the issue of the nuclear boundaries [i.e. red lines]...

"The silence of the country's diplomatic apparatus in the face of the babbling of the American negotiation representative [Wendy Sherman] – [babbling that] constitutes a reiteration of their exaggerated declarations – is leading to impudence, greed, and nonsensical statements on the part of 'the Great Satan,' America.

"I see the campaign promoted by those connected to the nuclear dossier [i.e. Foreign Minister Zarif] that is called 'any bad agreement is preferable to none at all' as a humiliation, and I vigorously condemn it. I am asking the security apparatuses to clarify to the Iranian nation what is behind this.

"The news coming in attests that the red lines set out by the Islamic regime have been crossed in the agreement; this will undoubtedly lead to the loss of the Iranian nation's rights and to the trampling of its nuclear achievements. Accepting the oppressive demands of the American side regarding cutbacks in our [uranium] enrichment, transforming the very essence of parts of our nuclear industry, in return for the lifting of a small part of the sanctions, is unacceptable to the Iranian nation, and will harm the national interests and the interests of the Islamic Revolution.

"Under Section 125 of our constitution, international commitments must be approved by the Majlis. But unfortunately, the Majlis members are not being updated at all in the nuclear negotiations issue... Government actions that disregard Majlis opinion will cause future problems, and will cause [the Majlis] to reject agreements that are against the interest of the people – which will have direct repercussions for the negotiating team."[9]

November 2, 2014 on, which is close to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC): "Kerry's Greedy Declarations." U.S. Secretary of State Kerry the eagle, who is sharpening his talons against the backdrop of an Israeli flag, says: "I am optimistic with regard to the nuclear agreement with Iran."

Kayhan: "In Negotiations That Could Take Place In 2024, Iran Will Undoubtedly Come To The Negotiating Table With Tens Of Thousands Of Centrifuges That Are More Advanced Than Those It Has Today"; The Nuclear Mushroom Yields Results Once In A Decade

On November 6, 2014, two days after the Republicans swept the U.S. midterm elections, Kayhan wrote: "Obama is now at his lowest point of popularity since he was elected... At the last nuclear negotiating venue [in Oman, at the level of Foreign Minister Zarif, U.S. Secretary of State Kerry, and EU High Representative on Foreign Policy Catherine Ashton, November 9-10, 2014], the Democrats in the White House will try to turn their defeat in the elections to their diplomatic advantage. Obama is like a gambler who has lost everything, and he is sending his representatives to the [negotiating] table with empty pockets... Apparently, the White House emissaries will recommend to the Iranian team to sign the nuclear agreement as soon as possible, since if they do not, Congress will enter the arena with a stick, threats, and sanctions...

"The [negotiating] venue in Oman must be the place where the [Iranian team] gives the Americans a final ultimatum, instead of listening to their boasts... Recently, American negotiating team leader Wendy Sherman quoted former U.S. secretary of state Madeleine Albright as saying that negotiations are 'like a mushroom that grows best in the dark.' Soon the result of the[se] negotiations, which have been conducted in the dark for over a year, will become clear.

"The last time that Western [officials] tried to feed Iran this poison mushroom and to force it to submit to the American greed was a decade ago. Undoubtedly, the 2014 mushroom will contain poison that was concocted in 2003. This is because at that point in the negotiations [i.e. in 2003], Iran was operating very few centrifuges, while today it has some 20,000 centrifuges. The Americans need to know that in the most optimal situation [for them], the nuclear mushroom yields results once in a decade... In negotiations that could take place in 2024, Iran will undoubtedly come to the negotiating table with tens of thousands of centrifuges that are more advanced than those it has today."[10]

Kayhan: Rafsanjani And Rohani Are Bringing Up Various Issues To Distract The Elites From The Upcoming Agreement

On October 28, 2014, Kayhan wrote: "In the Geneva agreements, we put on the table [i.e. we were forced to give up] the product of three years of [uranium] enrichment to 20%, and [agreed to accept] a freeze on activity at the Fordow [enrichment facility] and a halt to the operations to complete the Arak [heavy water] facility, in return for the release of some $7 billion in Iranian funds...

"During the four-month extension [of the Geneva document] we expanded this give-and-take – and now America covets another part of Iran's assets, saying 'close Fordow or turn it into a research center; cut back your reserves of enriched [material] to 3.5%, to a quantity that we will tell [you], and remove [it] from Iran; [and] shut down 5,400 of your 9,400 operating centrifuges, etc., etc. In return, we will examine your intentions for a period of seven to 20 years, [so that we can ascertain] whether or not we can trust you, or for example, [in return for] our promise not to impose new sanctions.' This is truly a win-win game and constructive engagement [a jibe at President Rohani].

"The question is, to what point and from what assets does the government intend to pay for this extension of the negotiations and the incremental freeze [on Iran's nuclear activity]?... When [Iran's] nuclear technology peaked, Rafsanjani, Rohani, and even [Mir Hossein] Mousavi, and others, saw themselves as major shareholders in this progress. However when the [P5+1] began to impose its impediments, a green light was given for [Iranian] concessions based on a freeze on a small or large part of the [nuclear] program. Rafsanjani even announced his satisfaction with the Geneva negotiations, [saying], 'Thanks to the negotiations, the taboo [on engagement] with America has been broken.'

"The negotiations apparently had two objectives: The first was to preserve the nuclear program, from the standpoint of [Iran's right to] enrich [uranium]; the second was to get the sanctions lifted. If some political figures do not attach the requisite importance to the first, they undoubtedly need to explain the second. Therefore, [they must be asked] why not a single sanction was lifted after [Iran] made all these concessions [in the negotiations] – but the sanctions were only made harsher?...

"The acceptance of the West's demands is the same mistake in judgment that has repeatedly led to an impasse, to the squandering [of Iran's] strategic assets, [and] to defaming and labelling the critics [of the government] who support [the regime] in an effort to render them passive. The storm surrounding the law to preserve the hijab and modesty, the support for the modesty police, the accusations that the Majlis removed the science minister due to the scholarships scandal[11]... the exploitation of the crime of the acid attacks [against women in Isfahan by claiming that the ideological camp was behind them] – all these are taken from the script and from the organized attempt by the men of fitna and their supporters outside [Iran], with the aim of stirring up marginal scandals within Iran so that [the main issues] are ignored.

"The West sees that Iran's irreplaceable role has redrawn the map of western Asia and the Middle East, [adding] the qualities of resistance and Islamic awakening in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen,l and Bahrain, [and says] 'Iran must be stopped from playing this role.'

"The men of fitna and the bankrupt extremists... believe that the only way to rebuild their organizations is by dealing with marginal issues and [news-grabbing] explosions that make a huge splash. A group of them... is operating based on a plan given to them, and their media and statesmen are moving ahead in coordination with the Western scheme.

"This hypocritical combination stands out clearly in the government [of Rohani] – revolutionary national enthusiasm [combined with] whispers aimed at trapping critics of the government into dealing with marginal issues to render them passive... to the point where neither the elites nor the people will ask why the negotiations are at an impasse, so that in the atmosphere of passivity and obliviousness it will be possible to reach an agreement, no matter what the cost. [Therefore], by the time the elites and the people wake up and ask what happened, what we gave, and what we got, it will be all over [that is, the deal will be signed]. Most statesmen oppose this harmful approach.

"The government and the president have already learned from the experience acquired in their 14 months in office. They are now at a point of evaluation and course correction. It is always beneficial to prevent damage and dangerous conduct. The leader [Khamenei]... said that the American regime, which stands with Israel, is the exception to Iran's foreign policy of engagement. The accuracy of his declaration [that we cannot talk to either the U.S. or Israel] was revealed to all over time. Obeying this instruction is the path that will benefit the government and bring it honor. Otherwise, [the Rohani government] will owe a debt to the arrogant ones outside [Iran] and to the seekers of fitna within [Iran], who are skilled in this matter; in this way [i.e. if it talks to the U.S., Iran] will gain no victory and no prestige..."[12]

Website Affiliated With Ideological Camp: The Pragmatists Are Trying To Remove Khamenei

On October 29, 2014,, which is close to Iranian security circles, published an article titled "What Is The Real Objective Of The Line Of Obliviousness [i.e. the pragmatic camp] – Taking The Majlis Or Replacing The Supreme Leader?" The article hinted that Foreign Minister Zarif is party to a Western plot to depose Khamenei, using the pragmatic camp's strategy for dealing with the Americans, saying that if no agreement is reached, then the ideological stream that opposes rapprochement with the West will seize key political positions in Iran.[13]

The article stated: "Although America's hostility towards the leader of the revolution [Khamenei] is nothing new, and they have acknowledged this a number of times... the [Americans'] attacks [against Iran] since the New York negotiations... [including] Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman's interview on the Voice of America in Persian and [Foreign Minister Javad Zarif's] entreaties before America's Council of Foreign Relations have colored it a different hue. Besides the abovementioned incidents, [the Iranian-American academic] Vali Nasr and other American senior officials and influential figures have mentioned Iranian leader Khamenei as the main reason why no agreement has been reached, going so far as to consider replacing him.

"Nasr said: In December 2015, elections will be held in Iran for the Iranian Assembly of Experts, which will appoint Iran's next leader. He also said: The next [Assembly of Experts] election can change the political direction in Iran.'

"Therefore, it must be asked: Who are the people [in Iran] who directed the policymakers of the enemy [i.e. the U.S.] towards supporting this strategy of deposing the leader Khamenei during direct negotiations with America?

"After consulting with which Iranians does America now consider the nuclear negotiations as an obstacle to its realization of its objectives, and as fertile ground for changing the course of the [Islamic] Revolution [i.e. the regime]?

"In all honesty, is the foreign minister really aiming, in his request to the American Congress to cooperate with the line of obliviousness [i.e. the pragmatic camp], to [obtain American] help so that they [i.e. the pragmatic camp] can win the Majlis elections? Or is he, like Nasr, really referring to a change in the makeup of the Iranian Assembly of Experts [so that it will remove or replace Khamenei]?

"Maybe some within Iran are not yet speaking as frankly as Nasr."[14]

Basij Posts Signs In Iranian Cities Saying 'Know The Shimr Of Our Time'

Also, the Basij has recently posted signs in Tehran and Shiraz stating, "Know The Shimr [who in Shi'ite legend murdered Imam Hussein] Of Our Time"; the signs clearly depict President Obama and the dome of the U.S. Capitol.[15]


[1] See October 23, 2014 statement by U.S. Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman,

[2] Most reports refer to 4,000; however, two Iranian sources have referred to at least 6,000. Majlis Nuclear Committee head Ebrahim Karkhanehi reported that P5+1 had agreed to approve the operation of 6,000 to 9,000 centrifuges. Tasnim, Iran, November 2, 2014.

[4] The Shi'ite legend of Karbala underpins Iranian culture, particularly political culture, in post-Islamic Revolution Iran; it tells of the first Shi'ite martyr, Imam Hussein Ibn Ali, the grandson of the Prophet, at Karbala in 680 CE, after he demanded power and refused to accept the authority of Umayyad caliph Yazid ibn Mu'awiyah.

[5] Shargh (Iran), November 2, 2014. An anonymous party familiar with dealings in the Foreign Ministry told Tabnak in an interview that Khorram is not an advisor to Foreign Minister Zarif, and that his views do not represent the negotiating team or the foreign ministry. Tabnak, Iran, November 4, 2014.

[6], October 22, 2014.

[7] Kayhan (Iran), October 23, 2014.

[8] Jomhouri-ye Eslami, (Iran), October 27, 2014.

[9] Tasnim (Iran), October 28, 2014.

[10] Kayhan (Iran), November 6, 2014.

[11] Recently, the ideological camp succeeded in removing Rohani's science minister for having a record as a reformist.

[12] Kayhan (Iran), October 28, 2014.

[14], October 29, 2014.

[15] IRNA (Iran) November 2, 2014; Tasnim, October 30, 2014.


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