Iran's hardliners, pragmatists unite in response to Trump

Nato ally France has warned that if the US designates Iran's Revolutionary Guard as a "terrorist" organisation it could further destabilise the region. But a reciprocal move by Iran could also have its own consequences.

LONDON • A tough line from President Donald Trump has been met by a show of unity from both sides of Iran's political divide, bringing together hardliners who cast the United States as an implacable enemy with pragmatists who seek rapprochement with the West.

Teheran, which has kept up a steady drumbeat of hostile statements for days, lashed out again yesterday, threatening to teach the Americans "new lessons" and keep "all options on the table" if Washington were to blacklist its Revolutionary Guards.

President Trump, who has accused his predecessor Barack Obama of being too soft on Iran, is expected to announce a hardening of policy this week, likely to include "decertifying" a landmark 2015 deal that lifted international sanctions in return for curbs on Teheran's nuclear programme.

Such a step would stop short of pulling out of the agreement, leaving that decision to Congress.

Mr Trump is also expected to designate Iran's most powerful security force, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), as a terrorist organisation. The IRGC has a vast economic empire in Iran, and blacklisting it could make it more difficult for Iranian businesses to access the global financial system.

"It seems the Trump administration understands only swear words, and needs some shocks to understand the new meaning of power in the world," said Iranian armed forces spokesman Masoud Jazayeri, who is also a Revolutionary Guards commander.

"The Americans have driven the world crazy by their behaviour. It is time to teach them a new lesson."

THREAT

It seems the Trump administration understands only swear words, and needs some shocks to understand the new meaning of power in the world.

IRANIAN ARMED FORCES SPOKESMAN MASOUD JAZAYERI, who is also a Revolutionary Guards commander.

Several Iranian newspapers yesterday ran the same photo on their front pages: the urbane, US-educated Foreign Minister Javad Zarif laughing and hugging the commander of the IRGC, Major-General Mohammad Ali Jafari, in a striking display of unity between the two main factions of Iran's leadership.

"We have a similar stance but different ways of saying it,"the papers quoted Maj-Gen Jafari as saying.

Iran's President Hasan Rouhani, a moderate, won re-election less than five months ago after a campaign in which he called for better relations with the outside world and reform at home, openly criticising the influence of the IRGC which he accused of backing his hardline opponent.

But the moderates and hardliners tend to rally together in public when threatened from abroad.

The Iranian nuclear deal, also backed by European countries, China and Russia, lifted broad international sanctions over Iran's nuclear programme that had been tightened during the Obama years and had caused severe damage to Iran's economy.

But Washington still maintains separate unilateral sanctions over Teheran's missile programme and allegations that it supports terrorism.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 11, 2017, with the headline 'Iran's hardliners, pragmatists unite in response to Trump'. Print Edition | Subscribe