The Corner

National Security & Defense

“Nuclear Deal Fuels Iran’s Hard-Liners”

Accepting the Iranian nuclear program and handing the regime an enormous financial windfall is not having the intended moderating effect in Tehran, per an excellent Wall Street Journal report today:

U.S. and European officials had hoped the nuclear accord would broaden cooperation with Tehran, and empower Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to promote democratic change. He was elected in 2013 on a platform to end the nuclear standoff and build bridges to the West.

The agreement, which calls for Iran to scale back its nuclear work in exchange for removal of international sanctions, fueled euphoria in Tehran among residents, students and business executives seeking greater freedom.

But the continuing purge and the conflict with Saudi Arabia stand to weaken Mr. Rouhani, a moderate Islamic cleric who backed the nuclear deal that involved more than two years of negotiations by his closest aides.

As much as $100 billion in frozen revenues are expected to return to Iran after sanctions are lifted, which U.S. officials said could happen in coming weeks. The White House hoped the cash windfall would aid Mr. Rouhani’s political fortunes. But Iranian academics close to Mr. Rouhani are increasingly concerned Mr. Khamenei will use the money and diplomatic rewards to entrench hard-line allies, at the expense of the president.

Many of the companies about to be removed from international blacklists are part of military and religious foundations, including some that report directly to Mr. Khamenei. Those firms could be the first to benefit from the rush of international businesses looking to profit from the lifting of sanctions.

There’s also this about Obama’s rebuff of the Green Revolution:

But the ranks of reformists in Iran have been depleted. Many activists are angry at the Obama administration for failing to support them six years ago in a rebuff that hasn’t been previously reported.

Iranian opposition leaders secretly reached out to the White House in the summer of 2009 to gauge Mr. Obama’s support for their “green revolution,” which drew millions of people to protest the allegedly fraudulent re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The demonstrations caught the White House off guard, said current and former U.S. officials who worked on Iran in the Obama administration.

Some U.S. officials pressed Mr. Obama to publicly back the fledgling Green Movement, arguing in Oval Office meetings that it marked the most important democratic opening since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Mr. Obama wasn’t convinced. “‘Let’s give it a few days,’ was the answer,” said a senior U.S. official present at some of the White House meetings. “It was made clear: ‘We should monitor, but do nothing.’ ”

The president was invested heavily in developing a secret diplomatic outreach to Mr. Khamenei that year, sending two letters to the supreme leader in the months before the disputed election of Mr. Ahmadinejad, said current and former U.S. officials.

Rich Lowry is the editor of National Review. He can be reached via email: comments.lowry@nationalreview.com. 

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