Iran’s hard-liners keep their criticism of nuclear pact to themselves

The New York Times reports: In a room in which journalists were outnumbered by security agents and paramilitary fighters, the tall Iranian commander stood and issued his judgment.

“Our ideology will not be undermined by some negotiations,” Mohammad Reza Naqdi, the hard-line head of the paramilitary Basij force, told the selected group of reporters in a gathering days before Iran signed an interim nuclear agreement with the United States and other world powers.

That pact, in which Iran’s moderate government agreed to freeze parts of its nuclear program for six months in exchange for limited relief from crippling economic sanctions, was greeted with wild enthusiasm in most quarters here. A conspicuous exception, however, were Iran’s hard-liners, who mostly maintained a studied silence, unwilling to risk a public confrontation with their patron over the years — the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has cautiously welcomed the deal.

But that silence may not last, experts say. At the slightest signal from the supreme leader, they say, the hard-liners could unleash protests by hundreds of thousands on the streets along with an outpouring of criticism from state-run news media.

“They are biding their time,” watching from the sidelines, eager to pounce on any perceived signs of backtracking, weakness or capitulation, said Farshad Ghorbanpour, an Iranian journalist close to the government of President Hassan Rouhani. “When the opportunity arises they will strike back, searching for pretexts and playing into possible snags during the negotiations,” he said. “This is in no way a done deal.” [Continue reading…]

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