Zarif’s Marginal Move on Red Lines in Iranian Foreign Policy

After two years of President Rouhani’s terms in office, Dr. Zarif managed to take essential and effective steps in the realm of Iran’s diplomacy and it was through logical negotiations based on achieving a certain goal that he could drive the case forward. The change was so substantial that Ahmadinejad’s negotiating team would occasionally wonder if he has personal ulterior motives in the talks to accomplish; a trend that had in the past caused the discussions to grow fruitless gradually.

In the previous series of talks, the chief Iranian negotiator, Saeed Jalili tried to make use of his personal interpretation of the pillars of the Islamic Revolution of Iran and put them on a beyond-diplomacy strategy so that he can suggest a negotiation procedure that respected religious administration, by doing so, he sought to bring the nuclear talks to fruition. That, however, had turned into a cloudy process that lessened hopes to a bare minimum for a nuclear deal between Iran and the world powers to come to fruition.

Once Hassan Rouhani took the office, Zarif, as a dynamic, technocratic diplomat, took the wheels and stepped onto the nuclear talk field, but unlike his predecessor negotiator, made every effort possible to move ahead using common diplomatic etiquette and usual international trends in the talks. This way, he could first remove the tension that had lingered for long in talks and the team, and as a next step, drive the talks to a point, which later became a brand new source of conflict for the Conservatives to grind on.

Zarif well knew that according to the ongoing diplomatic trends, he would have to sit at the same table as his American opposite number does, and to avoid the interceptions of talks by Israeli security services and those of other countries, he had to walk close to John Kerry, which, he was aware since the early beginning that would inflict verbal attacks.

Although Rouhani strives to prevent himself from riding into topics of the sort, we should note that he is one of the most prominent security figures in Iran who for years chaired the Supreme National Security Council of Iran and well knows how to take pressures off his Foreign Minister now that the new era is bound to begin. Nonetheless, as seasons gave places to one another, criticisms increased on the performance of the nuclear team over the matter of the JCPOA. The objectors believe that in the case of implementation of the JCPOA, the sanctions will stay still and the Iranian Parliament should by no means approve of it. To nail down the aim, the Conservatives have asked their followers to stage sittings in front of the Parliament and increment pressures on Rouhani’s proponents in the Majlis, for that gives them more edge to more powerfully act against the JCPOA.

While the odds were already playing nasty on the Conservative side, Mohammad Javad Zarif’s handshake with the US President on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session created a heated atmosphere for them to hit the JCPOA as hard as they wish for. Despite the fact that a simple handshake could be a normality for every political and diplomatic figure, it is not in Iran where the US President is called “Satan” and his portrayal is sometimes drawn on the walls in Tehran hand in hand with the murderer of Imam Husain, the third Shia Imam. All that could vouch for a different interpretation.

Objections and oppositions against Zarif’s handshake with Obama are so highlighted that a Conservative lawmaker took the open floor and said, “As soon as hundreds of Iranian hajjis embraced death as a result of the Saudis’ crime, Zarif incidentally embraced Obama! Mr. Zarif has bitten much more than he can ever chew!”

Hamid Rasaei, another Conservative lawmaker, raced at Zarif’s handshake with Obama shouting, “۲ years ago, Mr. Rouhani had an accidental phone talk with Obama! Last year, they told us Zarif had an incidental half-hour walk with the American FM, John Kerry. This year, they are telling us that Mr. Zarif ran into the US President, Obama and shook hands. Next year they will probably tell us they accidentally hugged and kissed each other on the cheek!!!”

On a step-by-step trend, the Conservatives who oppose the JCPOA are trying allude Zarif’s behavior when facing Obama to the JCPOA in a way that they can win scores against the Rouhani Administration or force it to fail the nuclear case. As a verification to that call, we can refer to the Chief of the JCPOA Commission, Alireza Zakani who stated, “What Mr. Zarif did in New York cannot be seen but in two ways: either he is deliberately trying to normalize ties with the US which is considered to be a backslide against the principles of the Revolution, or he is incapable of anticipating the enemy’s next move and cannot take proper measures which against the diplomatic wisdom. Mr. Zarif’s handshake with Obama is a clear sign of deliberately or idiotically laying the groundwork for the enemy’s political penetration into the atmosphere of the country. In the post-JCPOA time, this is an unforgivable mistake and is so unfortunate for us that our foreign minister,  should have been on the front line in fighting the arrogance that exists in the world, is the one who overlooks a redline and shake the Satan’s hand.” These claims on their own are indicative enough of how the Conservatives inside and outside of the parliament are after marring Zarif’s image. The fierceness went so far that some called him “traitor” and accused him of making an oversight on the redlines.

Now we must wait and see what trick Rouhani will bring out of the hat to save Zarif from the Conservatives’ verbal undershooting. Needless to say, Rouhani is fully cautious about the Iranian redlines and has served for years as one of the most significant security figures of Iran, which means he well knows how the mental conflicts are run by the Conservatives. Knowing all that, he uses silence and patience while facing them as means to, in addition to taking certain stances against Saudi Arabia and the death toll of Iranian pilgrims, tranquilize the atmosphere. That we should wait and see until not long later.

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