With nuclear negotiators anticipating the imminent finalization of an agreement, there appears to be a new upsurge of direct threats against the US by Iranian hardline officials and media outlets. The Blaze pointed out, for instance, that an Iranian newspaper with close ties to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei marked the beginning of Ramadan last month with an editorial referring to the destruction of the White House “in under 10 minutes” if the US were to launch an attack against Iran.
The editorial by the editors of Kayhan newspaper also identified the US as the “Great Satan” and the United Kingdom as “a wily fox.” It referred to Westerners as “infidels” and praised the martyrdom of Muslims in conflict with “the Jews’ deception.”
The Blaze also noted that the Iranian regime marked the end of Ramadan with Quds Day, an annual festival dedicated to Muslim unity, particularly in opposition to the continued existence of the state of Israel. The persistence of this rhetoric contributes to the strength of Israeli resistance to the emerging nuclear deal, which Israeli officials worry could lead to a nuclear Iran and a major existential threat to the Jewish nation.
Arutz Sheva pointed out that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emphasized on Monday that Israel would remain committed to a nuclear Iran regardless of whether there was an agreement between the Islamic Republic and the P5+1. He added that the relative lack of Western response to Iran’s bellicosity suggested that many in the West were committed to securing a deal at any cost.
Referring to Quds Day, Netanyahu said, “As Iran continued to receive more and more concessions at the negotiating table, Iranian President Rouhani led a march of hatred in the streets of Tehran in which the masses cried, ‘Death to America! Death to Israel!”
In an interview with the Times of Israel, Iranian Foreign Ministry chief Dore Gold elaborated on the Iranian threat, pointing out that the leaders of the Islamic Republic have a global view that is expressed through their support of terrorist groups and operations as far away as South America. Furthermore, Gold said that this support of terrorism is not bound by sectarian divisions, meaning that the apparent US strategy of pitting Shiite Iran against Sunni extremists like the Islamic State is misguided.
Indeed, critics of the Iranian regime have variously noted that its opposition to Western influence in the Middle East is often much stronger than its opposition to Sunni rivals, and that this has contributed to Iran’s allowing Sunni groups affiliated with Al Qaeda to operate from within its borders.
Iranian hardliners have thus gained much political traction from attempts to exploit the notion of a clash of civilizations between the US and Iran. And recent remarks indicate that they are still trying to do so. On Saturday, Iran’s Expediency Council Secretary Mohsen Rezaee said on Iranian television, “If Americans have bad intentions towards Iran and want to launch a military attack, they can be assured that we will immediately respond by capturing at least 1000 of their soldiers. Then they will have to pay a few billion to free each one of them. That might solve our economic problems.”
IranWire suggests that this rhetoric may have been part of Rezaee’s attempt to take credit for an imminent nuclear deal, by implying that hardline threats helped to pressure the US to accept a deal on Iranian terms. As of this writing, the anticipated provisions of an agreement are not fully understood, so it cannot be said whether or not the deal will reflect US concessions on the final points of contention that negotiators were attempting to resolve over the weekend.
Iranian military threats against US soldiers and the US political infrastructure are of course not credible, but this has not stopped hardliners from issuing the threats to exhibit a sense of nationalist pride or defiance. But bombastic statements like those of Rezaee and the Kayhan editors are not the limit of Iranian efforts to influence – or appear to influence – the talks.
The Wrap notes that Jason Rezaian, the American-Iranian correspondent for the Washington Post who has been held in Iran for nearly a year, finally received a third hearing in his long-delayed trial on Monday. The timing was conspicuously in line with latest anticipated deadline for a nuclear agreement, thus adding to speculation that the Iranian judiciary is holding him in hopes of using him as leverage in negotiations with the West.
The charges against Rezaian were not specified until shortly before his second hearing in May, and the accusations of espionage have no apparent justification. The Wrap indicates that this latest hearing did not resolve the case and that there is no indication of when the next hearing might be. It is possible, therefore, that he will be held until more news is revealed about the status of the nuclear talks and Iranian demands.