Reading Between the Iranian Lines

In a recent interview meant to reassure the international community Dr. Ali Akbar Salehi, the Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran in Tehran, managed to accomplish exactly the opposite. He claimed that the recent partial interruptions to nuclear activity had been entirely voluntary and were predetermined internally. Not only this, he explicitly downplayed the role economic sanctions and negotiations, and more specifically the Geneva interim agreement, played in achieving these results. Salehi went on to extol the millennia-old achievements and virtues of the Iranian nation and effectively challenged the United States to violate the Geneva deal which temporarily lifts a set of economic sanctions, arguing that if that were to be the case, Iran would restart producing 20% enriched uranium again. Finally, he accused the IAEA (and indirectly the Israel and the U.S.) of not expressing genuine concerns, and using Iran’s nuclear activity merely as an excuse to put pressure on the Middle-Eastern country.

The tone of the interview is without a doubt very worrying. The vigor of this “us vs. the rest of the world” motive in particular is cause for concern. Many political pundits forecasted that with the election of Hassan Rouhani and, perhaps more importantly, the quiet exit of Ahmadinejad, Iranian official declarations would drastically change. However, while great strides have been made in other respects (Joint Plan of Action, easing of visa concessions, etc.), very little has changed as far as the rhetoric regarding Iran’s nuclear activity is concerned. Why do you think that is? Might it be that the Iranian administration still wishes to pander to local extremist factions or that the sanctions ultimately did have a crippling effect on the economy? Or is there some other underlying reason? — Tommaso