Iran's hardliners are pressing their attack on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which has not yet been approved by Iran. Iran's opponents of the JCPOA have succeeded in halting any steps toward implementation of Tehran's responsibilities under the July14 settlement reached in Vienna by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council -- the US, the UK, France, China and Russia, plus Germany (the so-called P5+1). But who appointed them?
While some reports indicated that Iran was beginning to take off the production line some of the uranium-enrichment centrifuges in the Natanz and Fordow facilities, contradictory reports suggested that any such action was halted due to pressure from Iran's hardliners, and that dismantling the centrifuges had not been authorized by Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and was therefore premature. Another report suggested that only a small number of outdated centrifuges had been decommissioned.
However, a stern letter of warning was dispatched to President Hassan Rouhani from 20 key members of Iran's Majlis [Islamic Consultative Assembly], many of whom have close ties to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), informing him to cease any dismantling activity.
In addition, Iranian military commanders, security chiefs and conservative media outlets are coming close to questioning the competence and loyalty of those in the Iranian regime who favor the JCPOA. These personal assaults have implied that some officials are trying to whitewash the reputation of the United States in order to improve relations with the "Great Satan." The targets of those criticisms appear to be Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif as well as President Rouhani.
The Iranian military's Deputy Chief of the General Staff, Major General Gholam Ali Rashid, said that there are two types of officials that favor the JCPOA, and that their goal is "embellishing America's despicable image -- the "simple-minded, which includes some government officials as well as spiteful, traitorous, infiltrators."
General Rashid's comments dovetailed with other cautionary statements -- by the Chairman of the Basij [a volunteer militia], Professor Sohrab Salahi and Majlis deputy Ali Reza Zakani -- warning against allowing the JCPOA to serve as a channel to increase foreign influence in the Islamic Republic.
President Rouhani, in an attempt to reassert his authority on the issue, has criticized the conservative newspaper Keyhan, edited by Hossein Shariatmadari, who has often been associated with expressing the will of Ayatollah Khamenei. On 8 November, Rouhani indirectly criticized Keyhan for its threatening article that equated support for the JCPOA as helping America to increase its influence inside the Islamic Republic. The hardliners, however, quickly struck back against Rouhani in the person of Tehran's interim Friday prayer leader, Hojjat ol Eslam Sedighi.
Rouhani also attempted to burnish his image by meeting publicly with a senior Shia theologian, Grand Ayatollah Lotfollah Safi Golapayegani, and eliciting from him a statement of tentative support for the airing of all opinions on the JCPOA.
It seems that the hardliners are gaining the upper hand by piling new requirements on the shoulders of the P5+1 nations, possibly in order to extinguish the JCPOA altogether. Conservatives are also claiming that any new sanctions imposed in response to Iran's human rights violations or foreign policy operations will void the JCPOA altogether.
It also appears that President Rouhani and his political allies are losing ground amid the Iranian hardliners' attack on the JCPOA arrangement and the prospects of a possible opening to the West. Rouhani has attempted to appease the hardliners by now demanding that President Obama personally apologize for America's hostile behavior towards Iran.
The surreal irony, of course, is that Obama keeps assuring the world -- as recently as last week again, when he met with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu -- that he is "preventing" Iran from getting nuclear weapons, while the truth is that his "deal" -- if the Iranians ever sign it -- not only green-lights Iran's nuclear program, but in fact finances it.
Dr. Lawrence A. Franklin was the Iran Desk Officer for Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld. He also served on active duty with the U.S. Army and as a Colonel in the Air Force Reserve, where he was a Military Attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Israel.
 Bozorg Mehr Sharfedin, edited by Yara Bayoum and Raissa Kasakovsky.
 Ali Shamkhani Secretary/Supreme National Security Council speaking to Iranian Student News Agency.
 Tasnim News Agency, 12 November 2015, via "The Iran Project."
 Sohrab Salahi also warns that publicity about Iran's scientists could help target them for assassination.
 Ali Reza Zakani, Majlis Commission to Review the Nuclear Deal.
 Golpayegani/Rouhani meeting, 12 November 2015.