Tehran’s talks with world powers seemingly causing friction in leadership

Charm offensive led by Iran's president presumably has political opponents up in arms; expert: Rouhani was never Revolutionary Guard’s choice; former US adviser on Iran says Rouhani facing more dissent from Left than Right.

Khamenei in front of Revolutionary Guard 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Khamenei.ir/Handout)
Khamenei in front of Revolutionary Guard 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Khamenei.ir/Handout)
Iran’s charm offensive led by President Hassan Rouhani and its negotiations with world powers has political opponents up in arms.
But is the dissension real? Rouhani’s softer tone and tactics compared to former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are seen as too weak by some.
The commander of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard, Maj.-Gen. Muhammad Jafari, criticized Rouhani’s administration for being “infected by Western doctrine,” and went on to say “change must occur,” Iran’s Fars News Agency reported on Tuesday.
As though trying to sabotage Iran’s current talks with the US and other world powers, Jafari said on Tuesday that Iran’s missile range is being extended so that it can hit Israel.
“Our missiles should reach Israel, and our missiles have such a capability,” said Jafari as quoted by Iran’s Tasnim News Agency.
Asked about a possible nuclear attack against Iran, he responded that one of the Republican Guard strategies is to create a “balance of terror and threat.”
While he admitted that a nuclear attack could not be defended against, he added that it would never be carried out, because of the country’s ability to take revenge.
“Lots of options are on the table for Iran, and they [enemies] will receive crushing responses, one of which would be elimination of the Zionist regime,” he warned, according to Fars.
In what appears to be a pingpong between the hard-liners and Rouhani’s government, aggressive statements are followed by conciliatory language.
Jafari chastised Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif for a comment he was said to have made indicating Iran was militarily weak.
Zarif was quoted by local media last week as saying the West had little fear of Iran’s military defenses and could destroy them if it wished, although Zarif has said his statement was skewed and taken out of context.
“Rouhani was never the Revolutionary Guard’s choice,” Meir Javedanfar, a lecturer on Iranian politics at the IDC in Herzliya, told The Jerusalem Post.
Javedanfar says that they would have preferred a more conservative figure and Rouhani is not a former military man, so of course there is going to be a difference of views.
The Revolutionary Guard is supporting negotiations “not because they want to but because they have to.”
“The Revolutionary Guard people are being forced to accept the current deal kicking and screaming,” and they will be doing a lot of that for the foreseeable future, he said.
The harsh sanctions that Iran has been under have demonstrated that the Revolutionary Guard was “wrong, and their intransigence” had a massive cost for the regime.
However, Ray Takeyh, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a former senior adviser on Iran at the US State Department, told the Post that the presumed disagreement between Rouhani’s government and the Right might not be real at all.
“I think the factional problem that Rouhani faces come more from the Left [reformers] than the Right. The refusal to release political prisoners and absence of reforms have disenchanted the reformers,” said Takeyh.
“The nuclear policy is the result of the merger of the Right and Center – Rouhani and his presumed conservative detractors,” he said.
Reuters contributed to this report.