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Washington and the Iranian Public Opinion | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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US Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., April 22, 2016. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

During the negotiations for the nuclear agreement three years ago, Iran’s propaganda focused on claiming that the deal will lead to peace in the region and end the long-term conflicts.

Unlike what’s commonly known about it, Tehran’s government expanded its propaganda to include Iranian communities, most of whom have not been in agreement with the regime since the revolution erupted.

Some figures who have supported the nuclear deal, in fact, oppose the regime.

The unfamiliar reconciliation between the two opposing parties was very intriguing, which is why I inquired about it. Some commended the influence of the Iranian lobby, while others said the reconciliation was a result of the former US administration’s pressure on opposing parties.

Of course, some believe the opposition supported the deal although it was against the regime.

Hassan Rouhani’s government exerted a lot of effort and succeeded in painting a positive image about Iran’s future, promising reconciliation and positive change that would eventually end strained relations with around 5 million Iranians in exile, most of whom live in the West.

At the time, Rouhani and his Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s message focused on Iranians outside the country asking them to support Iran’s right to nuclear weapons, despite their different political orientations.

Iranian elites in the US reiterated the proposition and were convinced that Iran will change towards the best with tolerance and openness.

However, the question here is about the stance of the opposition that defended the nuclear deal after signing and implementing it. Did they sense any indications that the regime improved its treatment towards the opposition, and towards Iranians generally?

We did not sense any change in the regime’s behavior which increased its suppressions to even include those affiliated with the regime, such as the children of late Iranian leader Hashimi Rafsanjani and figures close to former president Mohammad Khatami. Only recently, a number of figures affiliated with Rouhani were arrested as part of the never-ending game of balances.

From the time Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was signed between Iran and the West in July 2015 and until today, we did not hear from this Iranian elite, whether inside or outside Iran, regarding any progress on becoming a tolerant civil society as promised.

Therefore, we do not know what game will Rouhani resort to, again, to mobilize people like he managed to do last time.

Last time, Rouhani appealed to the patriotic sentiment saying the nuclear project is for Iran as a whole and not just for the regime. He convinced the public that it is a scientific and cultural pride and noted that lifting the ban of Iran will make the Iranians’ life better than before.

The Iranians must certainly be proud of their achievements but not when it is just another means towards more wars and domination. The agreement empowered oppressive forces like the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

Because of the regime and its policies, Iran willingly continued to engage in battles despite the international ban and siege. It continued to spend billions of dollars on armed groups in Gaza, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen.

In addition, Tehran spent funds on a large network of extremist groups in Africa, Southeast Asia and even South America.

I expect Rouhani’s government to confuse the Iranian people living under the influence of the regime’s media, just like North Korea. The government will portray US’s decision as aggression against the Iranian people and as an attempt to restrain their lives, especially that Washington already imposed a ban on US visas for Iranians.

Washington must clarify its stance to the Iranian people and note that re-imposing sanctions on the government is not inevitable as it has rather previously given the regime a chance to put an end to its military adventures and stop funding extremist groups outside Iran.

US conditions are supposed to be backed by the majority of Iranians who had enough of the regime’s behavior and practices which squander their money on militias around the world.