Impact on domestic politics
The interviewees frequently spoke to the transformative effect that success or failure in the negotiations would have on domestic politics in Iran.
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Respondents saw a successful agreement, particularly one that was followed with tangible sanctions relief, as a potential game changer for Rouhani, vastly increasing his domestic strength politically. They felt an accord would significantly increase his ability to move forward more forcefully with civil and political reforms as the domestic credibility engendered from a successful accord would empower him to take on hardliners he has been unable or unwilling to confront.
Similarly, respondents believed such an accord would weaken hardline forces, who would be marginalized as the ones who did not deliver, and whose raison d’etre (opposition to the West, especially the United States) would dissipate with the end of sanctions and Iran’s international re-integration.
The respondents believed failure to reach an agreement would immeasurably weaken Rouhani, as well as moderate forces more broadly in Iran, and strengthen the hand of the hardliners.
For domestic policy, political development, and an opening of the social and cultural atmosphere, the administration has the requisite tools, but is not using these tools for fear of radical groups. Whatever policy is aimed at reforming the current conditions and which restricts the radical groups inside the country would be good. If the sanctions are lifted, the Rouhani administration will gain bargaining power inside the country.
–A Journalist in Tehran and Former Political Prisoner
An important issue that doesn’t receive enough attention is the issue of the theoretic failure and isolation of extremists in Iranian society. In years past, the “Death to America” slogan and the unconditional disagreement to anything having to do with the U.S. has turned into a type of ideology in Iran, something that continues to date. Right now, if you tell some not to chant “Death to America,” or to stop considering the U.S. “the Great Satan,” there would be nothing left of their ideology. All their beliefs and ideas were entailed in opposing a foreign power, the U.S. Everything is interpreted through this…political work, economic work, even scientific work.
–Ahmad Shirzad, Physics Professor and Former Member of Parliament
[If an accord is reached], Rouhani will have a free hand to deliver on his campaign promises….For example, he can work on his promises for the release of political prisoners, freedom of the press, and lifting the security state in the universities and similar issues. I don’t want to say that he would immediately succeed in making these demands a reality, but he would be able to state his positions with a clearer voice and with more power. Solving this issue will give him a credibility which would in turn give him the freedom to take steps and act more powerfully on domestic affairs. He will face opposition, but the atmosphere will change and the current atmosphere which is dominated by the radicals would change.
–Hermidas Bavand, Political Scientist and Spokesperson of National Front