Senior Iranian cleric challenges nuclear deal with world powers


DUBAI/BEIRUT, Jul 17:  A senior cleric challenged Iran’s historic nuclear deal with world powers on Friday, echoing a cautious early assessment of the accord by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, an arch-conservative who has the last word on matters of state.
Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Movahedi Kermani did not dismiss the accord in his remarks at Friday prayers in Tehran, but his language was sufficiently tough — some terms of the deal were an “insult” and “excessive”, he said — to indicate significant unease about the accord within Iran’s clerical establishment.
His remarks will be seen by Iranians as reflecting Khamenei’s views and contrast with the praise given to the accord by President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who plan to use the deal as the basis for a charm offensive among Iran’s wary Arab neighbors.
Kermani said Iran would accept a deal only if sanctions were lifted immediately, frozen revenues were returned and Tehran’s revolutionary ideals, including its fight with “global arrogance” – a term for the West and Israel — were preserved.
“They have some excessive demands,” he said, objecting to restrictions placed on the number of centrifuges Iran can operate, on its nuclear research and development and on its handling of enriched uranium.
Political analysts said the comments by Khamenei and Kermani allow conservative clerics the political space to make further criticisms of the deal and could also absolve the Supreme Leader of responsibility if the accord, which will last for years, falls apart at some future stage.
At the same time their criticism is not so severe as to torpedo the deal and block a lifting of sanctions – something ordinary Iranians are desperate to see happen to restore a normal economy.
“They say … Iran’s nuclear program should be limited and Iran should accept a comprehensive nuclear inspection regime … These are excessive demands.”
Under the deal agreed on Tuesday, sanctions will be gradually removed in return for Iran accepting long-term curbs on a nuclear program that the West has suspected was aimed at creating a nuclear bomb.
Iran, which says its nuclear work is for civilian purposes, sees its program as a symbol of national pride and resilience in the face of what it sees as decades of hostility from Western countries that opposed its 1979 Islamic revolution.
Kermani’s criticism underlined concerns expressed in the past two days by some conservative figures within Iran’s political establishment and media, and repeated the term Khamenei used to describe some of Tehran’s negotiating partners – “untrustworthy”.
Kermani said Iran’s nuclear scientists and scholars should now scrutinize the deal and discuss it.
“This is important as I have heard some critics saying the deal has not preserved the Supreme Leader’s red lines,” he said.


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