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Nuclear deal a challenge for Rouhani as Iran hardliners close in


Iran’s hardliners are preparing to bring President Hassan Rouhani to heel if U.S. President Donald Trump scraps Tehran’s nuclear deal with major powers, officials and analysts believe, APA reports quoting Reuters.

 

Trump has threatened to abrogate the 2015 agreement by not extending sanctions waivers when they expire on May 12, if Britain, France and Germany do not “fix” its “terrible flaws”.

 

This sets the stage for a resurgence of political infighting within Iran’s complex power structure, Iranian officials said.

 

Annulment of the accord could tip the balance of power in favor of hardliners looking to constrain the relatively moderate Rouhani’s ability to open up to the West.

 

While the spotlight is on Trump’s eventual decision there will be a display of unity in Tehran, a senior Iranian official told Reuters, on condition of anonymity.

 

“But when the crisis is over, hardliners will try to weaken and sideline the president,” the official said.

 

Nor can the president expect any weakening of Iran’s system of clerical rule as a result of the uncertainty surrounding the nuclear deal, meaning “Rouhani will be in a no-win situation”, said a relative of Khamenei.

 

For Rouhani the stakes are high. If the deal falls apart, he could become politically vulnerable for promoting the 2015 accord, under which non-nuclear sanctions were lifted in return for Tehran curbing its nuclear program.

 

“It will also lead to a backlash against the moderates and pro-reformers who backed Rouhani’s detente policy with the West ... and any hope for moderation at home in the near future will fizzle out,” said political analyst Hamid Farahvashian.

 

It is a delicate balance. Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei knows that Iranians, many of whom took to the streets earlier this year to protest against high food prices, can only take so much economic pressure.

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