An Iranian expert in nuclear and international affairs, Mehdi Mohammadi, said in an interview with Quds Online website, “Let’s assume that Mr. Zarif’s comments that economic issues had no place of consideration in the JCPOA were honest and that his expression was not a product of public opinion pressures on the government because the JCPOA has no economic results, [in that case] the question is, if the goal of the JCPOA was not sanctions relief, then what was the goal of the JCPOA? In fact, Mr. Zarif’s comments have thrown Rouhani’s government out of the frying pan and into the fire. [Now] the government has to answer the bigger and more dreadful question that if your goal was not to thwart the economic perils and you’ve not negotiated to solve the economic difficulties, then to what end did you negotiate?”
Kayhan newspaper, also allied with the Supreme Leader, published an article that same day, entitled, “Do you remember these titles?” The article said, “In an interview with an internal newspaper, our country’s foreign minister recently said, ‘the JCPOA created an equation between our measures and the Western ones. Our measures were nuclear, and their measures were economic. Therefore, there is no doubt that the west has failed to live up to its commitments.’ But he thinks that the goal of the JCPOA was not economic at all… Eventually, considering the absolute damage of the JCPOA and the near-zero achievements of the nuclear agreement, the reformist officials and media, instead of apologizing and striving to make up for these damages, are minimizing popular demands, create fictitious achievements and finally change the initial problem.”
Still, without economic goals, the Iranian regime would not have gone to the negotiating table. Its goal was to save itself a deteriorating economic situation. In fact, the Rouhani government pointed to the JCPOA as one of its major achievements. Rouhani claimed that solving the economic, environmental, and even water supply issues is related to the nuclear deal and sanctions relief. He compared sanctions to an illness that starts with a mild fever, saying, “Initially, no one paid attention to this mild fever, but when the patient fell to the ground and couldn’t move anymore, we sought to heal the sickness. Some didn’t know the meaning of sanctions, but gradually our problems increased.”
Khamenei voiced his blessings for the agreement but raised a few conditions that must be met. Khamenei’s letter to Rouhani in October of 2015 read, “First: Since Iran mainly accepted the negotiations with the goal to cancel the unjust economic and financial sanctions… European Union’s and U.S. president’s statements must clearly say that all the sanctions have been removed. Any suggestions that the structure of the sanctions will remain, is considered a violation of the JCPOA.”
Khamenei’s statement clearly shows that economic sanctions were the major consideration. And this is the reason that the Iranian opposition considers the JCPOA poison for the Islamic Republic. They believe that the Islamic Republic is incapable of behaving like a normal and responsible member of the international community.
Still, the conservatives will attempt to distance themselves from the JCPOA and the so-called moderates will point out that the Supreme Leader himself gave it his approval and supervised the negotiations to the final agreement. This merely highlights the instability of the regime to an already dissatisfied population.