The New York Times reports: The backlash comes as Iran is preparing for parliamentary elections in February that constitute a litmus test of Mr. Rouhani’s policies. It seems that hard-liners, using the intelligence unit of the Revolutionary Guards Corps, have started rounding up journalists, activists and cultural figures, as a warning that the post nuclear-deal period cannot lead to further relaxation or political demands.
In recent days at least five prominent figures were arrested by the intelligence unit, among them Isa Saharkhiz, a well-known journalist and reformist, who was released from jail in 2013 after a conviction for his alleged involvement in the 2009 anti-government protests. On Sunday, Ehsan Mazandarani, the top editor of a reformist newspaper, Farhikhtegan, was arrested by the same unit, the semiofficial Tasnim news agency reported. On Tuesday, they arrested the well-known actress and newspaper columnist, Afarin Chitsaz, the Amadnews website reported.
Proponents of the nuclear deal had expected some backlash in Iran. But even they appear to have been blindsided by its intensity.
“All these arrests baffle me,” said Farshad Ghorbanpour, a political analyst who has long said the nuclear deal would lead to positive changes and more freedoms. “I cannot say more.”
State-sanctioned media have been busy producing a litany of American conspiracy theories — Iran’s Press TV website even published an article on Tuesday raising the possibility that the C.I.A. was responsible for downing a Russian jetliner in Egypt over the weekend. Iranian news has also given prominent mention to the “network of American and British spies” rounded up by the Guards’s agents.
Their most prominent targets are dual Iranian and American citizens, but on Tuesday, state television said Nizar Zakka, a Lebanese-American information technology expert who mysteriously disappeared here on Sept. 18, also had been seized. [Continue reading…]