Iranian president responds to criticism of nuclear deal; admits foreign footdragging

Iranian president responds to criticism of nuclear deal; admits foreign footdragging
President Rouhani is preparing for his second presidential election.
By bne IntelliNews August 3, 2016

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, in a live television interview with Iran’s sole state television broadcaster, said he is hopeful about the future of the Islamic Republic and about the potential for an economic boom, but stressed that the slowness in economic progress has several causes.

The interview gave Rouhani the opportunity to respond to previous critical comments made by the country’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei on June 1, who said the country has not seen any benefits from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which Iran signed with six world powers in 2015 putting a halt to Iran's nuclear development programme. Khamenei decried the “futility of negotiation with the Americans”.

Rouhani on the defensive 

The August 2 television interview on Iran’s prime time politics show on Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting is the latest in which the president has stressed that the work of his administration is actually making positive improvements to the lives of ordinary Iranians.

However, the president did admit that the P5+1 group of countries did have “some shortcomings” in honouring its side of the landmark bargain. “Had the other side performed well, we would have been in a better condition today, but there are some acts of obstructionism,” Rouhani said.

The president added that some regional countries attempted to kibosh the deal, as “they childishly opposed the JCPOA and are continuing to attempt new obstacles [for Iran’s re-emergence].”

He added that the US Congress is also acting against the will of deal, causing further headaches for the international community who want to engage with Iran.

“Had the US implemented the JCPOA in good faith, we may have trusted the opposite side and agreed to enter into negotiations with them on other issues; however, they did not score well on their test,” he said.

What came as a particular surprise in the interview was the frankness of the president's claims that diplomats who were part of the several negotiation teams said the US is breaching its promises, and while speaking favourably of Iran, obstructed Iran’s economic relations with other countries.

The president’s comments come amid a growing backlash in several quarters of Iran, both liberal and hard-line, that for all the fanfare of the nuclear deal not much has happened since January when Iran was supposed to have beeen welcomed back into the international fold.

The president also noted that Iran’s efforts in the region to bring “peace and stability” to growing conflicts can be put down to the several arms of Iran’s large armed forces, though not specifically naming the fight against Daesh (ISIS) in Syria and Iraq.

“This peace and stability will continue and Iran will always remain the focal point of security and stability in the region,” he said.

Complaints of biase

Meanwhile, the president said he hoped to come on television further in the runup to the next presidential election in 2017, to explain more about the country’s developments during his first term in office.

The national broadcaster and the Rouhani administration got off to a rocky start, with the national network not giving his administration the level of reporting it thinks it deserved, while also not quoting the president on several occasions in 2014.

During his first presidential bid in 2012-2013, Rouhani and several other candidates were seen to slam the television station for its biassed portrayal of their policies, with one notable event seeing several presidential candidates refuse to answer questions on live TV due to the poor structuring of the television show.

In another event, on a notable political show, Rouhani had to go on the defensive after the interviewer caught the would-be president off guard with critical comments about his presidential bid.

The president’s distrust of the television station is well known in Iran, so much so that while meeting the new director of the network, Ali Asgari in May, Rouhani said: “Criticising and a constructive approach is the inherent and desirable responsibility of the public media, and especially the IRIB, but what is undesirable, is dishonouring, insulting, satirising and promoting lies,” according to the website.