Last Thursday, the Senate approved a 10-year renewal of the Iran Sanctions Act. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani immediately called upon outgoing President Obama not to sign it, but Obama’s office indicated that he probably would, holding that there is nothing in the act contrary to the Iran nuke deal, officially known as the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). That deal lifted international and US sanctions related specifically to the nuclear program, but the ISA sanctions other behavior. Despite his disappointment, Rouhani indicated that Iran would not allow the deal to be broken. The real question for Iranians, in any case, is what will happen under President Trump, who has promised to renegotiate the nuclear deal.
The hard-line newspaper Kayhan knocked Rouhani and his centrists, gloating, “Those who had dreams about America were fooled,” and adding that US enmity with Iran is intrinsic to America as an aggressive imperial power (this according to BBC Monitoring, which rounded up the Iranian press reaction). The equally hard-line Javan joined in, asking, “What will serial infringements against the JCPOA look like in Donald Trump’s administration?”—implying that the president-elect will be even more disappointing to Iranian reformists on this score. The paper urged the government to react forcefully to violations of the treaty. Hard-liners in Iran never wanted the nuclear deal, seeing it as a humiliation and an assault on Iran’s national sovereignty.
The more moderate Iran paper pointed out that when he signs the ISA, Obama will exempt Iran from sanctions pertaining to its enrichment program, in accordance with the JCPOA. That step will hold European and other investors in Iran harmless from US Treasury Department sanctions, and make it impossible for Trump’s Treasury Department later on to go after those firms, since they can claim in international tribunals that they acted in good faith and in accordance with Obama’s signing statement.
The reformist Arman warned against a hotheaded reaction to the renewal of the US sanctions. Abrogating the nuclear deal, cautioned columnist Mahdi Motahharniya, would give the hawkish incoming Trump administration an opening to discredit Iran on the international stage and whip up a frenzy in favor of new international sanctions. He rebuked the hard-liners for trying to make the treaty a football in internal factional politics. “It is,” he insisted, “a national issue.”