Several of the broadcasts translated by the NCRI called the organization a “small group” or “grouplet,” in keeping with the regime’s ordinary narratives, painting the opposition as ineffective or inconsequential. But this narrative has potentially been undermined by the decision to bring attention to the June 13 gathering, which reportedly drew a crowd of over 100,000 supporters, including hundreds of political dignitaries from the US, Europe, and elsewhere.
In fact, virtually all of the official and semi-official Iranian media on this topic specifically highlighted the consistent Western presence at NCRI rallies. Iranian State Television Channel 1 played clips of speeches by British MP David Jones and former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton. The Islamic Republic of Iran News Network, Fars News Agency, and the Tabnak news website all referred to a message recorded for the event by Arizona Senator and former Republican presidential candidate John McCain.
On Monday, the Times of Israel reported that Brigadier General Ahmad Reza Pourdastan, the commander of Iranian ground forces, said that the US and Iran will never be on good terms, regardless of the nuclear negotiations that are supposedly set to conclude in the coming days. “We should never hold a positive view of the enemy,” Pourdastan warned, referring to the US.
Iranian state media’s coverage of the NCRI rally likely serves the same purpose as this and similar statements, encouraging hardliners to push back against any domestic interest in rapprochement or cooperation, on the assumption that the Americans are working closely with the Iranian regime’s sworn enemies.
This assumption also serves to galvanize hardline opposition to a nuclear deal, in spite of the fact that the Obama administration has been criticized for offering excessive concessions to Iranian negotiators. Iran expert Michael Ledeen recently claimed, according to the Jewish Press, that Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei never intended for a nuclear deal to be signed, but meant to extract whatever concessions he could from it while drawing out the process.
Connecting the US to the most prominent Iranian resistance organization may serve to encourage hardliners to scuttle the deal or at least counterbalance the popular support that exists for an agreement among the largely young and progressive Iranian populous.
Several instances of media coverage translated by the NCRI made explicit reference to the nuclear talks as well as demonizing the Iranian resistance and playing up its linkages to the American government. Channel 1 pointed out, for instance, that “American and European officials who support this grouplet took part in this gathering right at the time of the nuclear negotiations.”
In a broadcast two days earlier, Channel 2 said, “While the U.S. claims that it is interested in a comprehensive and lasting agreement over the nuclear dossier, the constant ties between senior security and military officials of this country with the terrorists shows that the Americans are behind the curtains pursuing the same old defeated scenario of regime change.”
NCRI supporters who attended the June 13 gathering, such as John Bolton, did specifically endorse a policy of regime change, as well as asserting that the Iranian regime cannot possibly be a trustworthy negotiating partner. But the Obama administration has recognizably maintained a contrary view, reducing US demands regarding the Iranian nuclear program and speculating that a more regionally influential Iran might moderate on its own accord.
The coverage of the NCRI rally seems to indicate that Iran’s official state media is intent on marginalizing the Obama administration’s policy and maintaining a narrative of combative relations between the two countries. Interestingly, this in turn seems to give credence to the notion that the Iranian regime cannot be trusted to cooperate or to negotiate in good faith.