Home | IRANEWS | Iran’s Hard-Liners Sharpen Attacks on U.S. as Nuclear Talks Continue

Iran’s Hard-Liners Sharpen Attacks on U.S. as Nuclear Talks Continue

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image A protester held up an anti-American sign at a funeral procession in June for 270 Iranian servicemen killed in the Iran-Iraq war. Iraq returned the remains to Iran in May. Credit Behrouz Mehri/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

TEHRAN — The chants of “Death to America” and the burning of American flags in the streets are as familiar a part of life here as air pollution and traffic jams. With the United States and Iran on the verge of a potentially historic nuclear accord, however, there has been a distinct change in tone: the anti-Americanism is getting even more strident.

The rising levels of vitriol have been on display this week in the buildup to the annual anti-Israel extravaganza coming this Friday.

“We march not only against Israel,” the influential Ayatollah Ali Jannati told the Fars news agency of the annual rally on the last Friday of Ramadan in Iran and other Muslim countries. “It goes far beyond that. We also march against the arrogant powers,” Europe and, particularly, the United States.

The underlying cause for the heightened display of anti-Americanism, analysts say, is the growing likelihood that Iran and its Western negotiating partners will sign a nuclear accord, opening the possibility of improving relations with the Great Satan, the United States.

Iranians stomped on a portrait of President Obama during a demonstration against Iran's nuclear talks with world powers. Credit Ebrahim Noroozi/Associated Press

 

“Anti-Americanism is a pillar of our system,” said Nader Karimi Joni, a reformist journalist. “Now that we are in direct talks with the United States, the reaction is to oversell anti-Americanism, to emphasize that they continue to be the enemy.”

Negotiators continued their work in Vienna on Wednesday, trying to work through last-minute wrangles over a weapons embargo, missile sanctions, inspections and the pace of relief from economic sanctions. If a deal is completed, the existing tensions between Iran’s two political factions are bound to increase, analysts say. “We can expect a lot of anger, the government will be accused of treason, betrayal of Islam, caving in to American pressure and so on,” said Farshad Ghorbanpour, a political analyst close to the government. Those in Iran’s divided political system hoping for better relations with the West have always faced off with groups opposing any hint of rapprochement.

When the reform-minded President Mohammad Khatami advocated better relations with the United States in 2000, hard-liners threw stones at buses carrying American tourists. The opposite occurred in 2006, during the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In that case, a government-sponsored conference denying the Holocaust was criticized by Iranian reformists, who argued that Iran needed to join the world, not alienate it.

Since its election in 2013, the government of President Hassan Rouhani has been promoting better relations with the West. Publicly admitting that the state’s coffers are empty and that the oil industry needs hundreds of billions of dollars in investments, the new government has been welcoming interest from international and American oil companies, airplane manufacturers and investors of all sorts, beckoning them to come to Iran after a deal is clinched.

This is what Iran’s conservative clerics, lawmakers and commanders fear most, because it puts the country on the road to normalization of relations with its traditional enemies, particularly the United States.

“What will be left of our revolution, of our position in the Islamic world if we start relations with a country devoted to oppressing us and many others?” asked Alireza Mataji, an organizer of anti-American rallies. “We will not let America destroy us by an iron fist covered in a velvet glove.”

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State television, the main tool for disseminating official views, still reminds viewers day in and day out of all the evil acts and “crimes” committed by the United States. Every public event provides another opportunity to pound away at the official message of the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, that “America needs to be punched in the mouth.”

Saeed Laylaz, an economist close to the government and a supporter of better relations with the United States, said, “Hard-liners are very skilled in manipulating anti-American sentiments. Right now they are preparing the grounds for their future offensive.”

Much the same could be said in the United States, where Republican conservatives are working hard to turn public opinion firmly against an accord.

Deeply suspicious of Iranian motives, many openly admit they are hoping — even pressing — for a collapse in the nuclear talks, convinced that an overeager President Obama has already made too many concessions. House Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio said on Wednesday the president is so convinced a deal with Iran would bolster his legacy that he is now willing to accept any deal, no matter how dangerous.

For Congressional Republicans, the extension of a June 30 deadline in the talks was a further sign that compromise had gone too far. “It’s time for the president to be honest with the American people — Iran is not negotiating in good faith,” said Representative Michael R. Turner, another Republican from Ohio. “Disregarding the very deadlines his administration helped create is not a strategy to further America’s national security, stability in the Middle East or a nuclear-free Iran.”

At a social reception on Tuesday night, President Obama told Senate Democrats the chances for a deal between the West and Iran to control the Islamic republic’s nuclear program were less than 50-50 at this point, according to Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat. Mr. Obama also reassured his nervous party that he would not agree to a deal he thought was weak or unenforceable.

In Iran, the hard-liners opposing relations with the United States are not against a deal per se. They are interested in solving the nuclear issue — but on Iran’s terms. They also agree the country needs investments, but from nonpolitical actors like oil companies, not from Starbucks and Disney.

“Those who think that even after a deal we will open our borders and change are very, very wrong,” said Hamidreza Taraghi, a political analyst close to the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. For Friday’s Quds Day rallies, the annual protest against the Israeli occupation of Palestine (Quds is the Persian name for Jerusalem), Iran’s Coordination Council of Islamic Propaganda released the preferred slogans on its website on Tuesday.

“Please shout the messages of all the times, which are ‘Death to America,’ ‘Death to Israel,’ ‘Death to global arrogance,’ and ‘Death to international Zionism,’ ” the website read.

 

Jonathan Weisman contributed reporting from Washington.

 

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