Indeed, 59 percent of respondents said they hold a negative view of Obama’s handling of Iran policy in general. More than half said that they believed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action should have been rejected by the US Congress. A majority also felt that it is likely the Iranian regime will fail to fulfill its obligations under the deal. Furthermore, 64 percent said they think the US should respond militarily if this happens. This distrust and this view of the appropriate response was supported by a majority of respondents who identified with each political party and also as independent.
CNN claims that this poll shows growth in Americans’ perception of Iran as a threat to the US. This is possibly a consequence of the aggressive lobbying against the nuclear agreement that emerged in the wake of the deal’s signing on July 14, and before it came up for a vote this month before the House and the Senate.
The deal’s detractors include the entirety of the Republican Party, political groups that advocate on behalf of Israel, and Iranian dissidents. But their advocacy was quite capable of citing statements and statistics from the Iranian regime itself in support of their position that the regime was likely to cheat on the deal and to utilize sanctions relief in order to further finance terrorism and human rights violations.
Demonstrating this fact, the Los Angeles Times reported on Monday that Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei had made a number of subtle moves in recent weeks which hinted that he may disapprove of the deal. Even if President Hassan Rouhani is genuinely committed to the agreement, an adversarial view from Khamenei would spell serious trouble for it, as he is the ultimate authority in virtually all matters of policy in Iran.
Iran’s conservative Kayhan newspaper claimed last month that Khamenei saw potential for the deal to have “disastrous consequences” and that he was “not in any way satisfied with the text.” Khamenei has also continued to express animosity toward the West in public speeches and statements. The LA Times points out that just last week he referred to the US as the “Great Satan” while again renewing his call to oppose any Western influence in the wake of the nuclear deal.
Providing even clearer evidence of the Supreme Leader’s belligerence, his official website released a YouTube video on Sunday which directly threatened the United States. The Global Dispatch quoted the video as saying, “They must know that should any war break out, one who will emerge humiliated by it will be invading and criminal America.”
Such gestures surely undermine at least some claims about growing collaboration between the Iranian and American leaderships in the wake of the nuclear deal. The New York Times advanced this narrative on Monday in an article that acknowledged the current complexity of US-Iran relations but claimed that the agreement has paved the way for more talks outside of the nuclear sphere, including formerly unthinkable direct telephone calls from the US secretary of state to the Iranian foreign minister.
One such call was credited with preventing a clash at sea between the US Navy and Iranian ships believed to be running guns to the Houthi rebels in Yemen. The Times acknowledged the Iranian backing for that group, which is opposed by the US and especially by American allies among the Arab states. But it also downplayed the level of Iranian influence in the conflict that has ousted the elected president of Yemen.
However, other sources, including networks of Iranian resistance, have reported that Tehran played a direct role in the conflict, as by supplying advisors and combat support from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. But such influence is considerably more visible and widely recognized in places like Iraq and Syria, where Iran-backed Shiite rebels have greatly contributed to the sectarian conflict and the continued role of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, in contrast to US interests.
The Times also claimed that Afghanistan “may be the place where there is the clearest alignment of interests — and the potential for collaboration.” The article added that Iran shares the US’s desire to prevent either the Taliban or Al Qaeda from returning to positions of strength in the country. But this claim is at odds with recent reports from the Iranian side, including reports in May that Tehran welcomed an official visit from the Taliban.
And if relations between Iran and the Taliban are not as icy as a narrative of Iran-US collaboration would suggest, this is arguably even truer of relations between Iran and Al Qaeda, some affiliates of which have been known to enjoy stable bases of operations inside the Islamic Republic. Sky News explained this on Monday in the context of a story about the release of five Al Qaeda prisoners from Iran.
While these two powers stand on opposite sides of the Shiite-Sunni sectarian divide, they have reportedly shown willingness to put these differences aside in service of the confrontation of common enemies, particularly the United States. There is now some concern that the five released prisoners, who include three top-rank officials in the terrorist organization, will act in accordance with Iranian interests, as by relocating to Syria to conduct operations on the understanding that they will leave the Assad regime alone.
Naturally, opponents of the nuclear agreement have emphasized the possibility of unfrozen assets being channeled into these and other terrorist groups. But the possible relocation of the five Al Qaeda terrorists raises another, related concern: that Iran’s perceived legitimacy and expanded relations with the world community will allow it to more easily facilitate the transfer of arms and personnel to conflict zones and terrorist target areas throughout the Middle East.
This prospect puts a dark spin on the news, reported by McClatchy on Monday, that Iran is aiming to make its Kish airport into a major hub between eastern and western Asia. In its statements to this effect, Tehran has emphasized the prospect for Muslims from various areas making pilgrimages to holy sites. But such pious motives have been cited by Tehran many times in the past to encourage and explain the participation of the Revolutionary Guards and their affiliates in conflicts where they have been said to be defending Shiite shrines.
In the days after the outbreak of fighting in Yemen, Iranian flights increased to the Arabian nation, leading some analysts to the conclusion that domestic air travel was being used to conceal the smuggling of weapons and possibly military personnel.
All of this may support the conclusion of the American public that Iran represents a threat to the West, and that it is not trustworthy overall. But none of this provides new cause for suspicion about the nuclear agreement in particular. However, Inquisitr reported on Monday that Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, had claimed that Iran had uncovered unexpectedly high reserves of raw uranium.
This yellowcake could be enriched into a form of uranium suitable for energy generation or for a nuclear warhead, without the need for the uranium imports that Western negotiators widely assumed to be part of the Iranian pathway for nuclear fuel. Given the limits on international inspections within the Islamic Republic, Inquisitr speculates that this may seriously undermine the agreement, which was already judged to be weak by a large contingent of opponents.
As alarming as the details of the announcement are for those opponents, the very existence of that announcement and its conspicuous timing are also suspect, and may be regarded as evidence that high-ranking Iranians deliberately understated their access to raw materials, are now displeased with the deal, and have no particular desire to abide by its declared restrictions on Iran’s uranium enrichment.