This may well be an earnest effort on the part of the so-called moderate president to set prudent policies for the recovery of his nation’s sanctions-crippled economy. However, Rouhani’s moderate credentials have been widely disputed during his two years in office. He has overseen a sharp rise in executions to a volume of over 700 in just six months, and last week he publicly declared that Iran would not be abiding by any UN restrictions on its purchase and sale of weapons.
In light of this there is some question as to whether his newly announced restrictions may be used to restrict Western investment, or at least Western profits, altogether. This interpretation of his remarks is also supported by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s insistence that Tehran will not accept any Western influence, even after the apparent improvement of relations demonstrated by the July 14 nuclear agreement.
The declared restrictions on investment are not the only sign of possible anti-Western measures being taken by the Rouhani government. Neither are they the most convincing such signs. Arguably more significant is the fact that, according to Live Trading News, Rouhani said on Saturday that he opposes a parliamentary vote on the nuclear agreement for the express reason that such a vote would create an obligation for the government to abide by the deal.
Western and Israeli opponents of the agreement have frequently asserted that on the basis of past behavior, Iran is very likely to attempt to cheat on provisions of the deal limiting its research, development, and nuclear enrichment. Their arguments may receive a boost from the news that Rouhani prefers these provisions to not be legally binding under the Iranian framework of law.
But such evasions still only serve as indirect evidence of antagonism toward the West. More direct evidence comes in the form of recent military threats issued by officials in the Iranian armed forces and Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. It also comes in the form of actions taken against Western nationals, including Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian, who is currently awaiting judgement and sentencing after being held for more than 400 days on charges of cooperation with “hostile” states.
Rezaian’s family and his defense lawyer reject the charges as politically motivated and maintain that his case file presents no evidence against him. The long delays in his trial have been explained in terms of Iranian attempts to use the case as leverage first in the nuclear deal and then for a possible prisoner exchange involving 19 Iranian’s currently held in the US, many of them on charges of sanctions violations.
As of Monday, there was some question about whether Rezaian’s case had been brought to a conclusion. The New York Times reports that the Iranian judiciary announced that two individuals had been sentenced to 10 years in prison on charges of spying for the US and Israel. But it did not give their names, thus leaving open the possibility that one of them is Rezaian. Media had previously reported that he could be facing a sentence of between 10 and 20 years.
In any event, the refusal to identify the convicts equates to a refusal to identify the evidence supporting their convictions. Thus the public announcement conveys a narrative about a vague and unsubstantiated threat from the West.
Indeed, many Iranian officials have expressed this narrative directly, and Khamenei’s insistence upon resisting Western influence is part of this. The narrative is also bound up with Iran’s commitment to the destruction of the state of Israel. And on Monday, Y Net News indicated that this commitment entails resisting cultural influence that suggests tolerance of the Israeli homeland.
The Israeli news source reports that Iran blocked famed conductor Daniel Barenboim from entering the country for the simple reason that he holds Israeli citizenship alongside citizenship in other nations including Palestine. Barenboim has previously used his position to bring together Israeli musicians with musicians from a number of Israel’s past and current enemies in the region.
Tehran’s refusal to allow Barenboim to perform comes after a long series of actions blocking the concerts and other performances in the Islamic Republic, as part of what is perceived to be a conservative crackdown on supposedly pro-Western cultural attitudes coinciding with the nuclear negotiations.