What do Koreans think of Iranians

Competition from hardliners : Why the Iranian President is getting more and more distressed

It was a declaration of war: against the will of Iranian President Hassan Ruhani, the parliament in Tehran recently ordered the authorities of the Islamic Republic by law to increase uranium enrichment from around four percent to 20 percent.

Ruhani fought back because he knew that doing so would make his efforts to preserve the 2015 international nuclear treaty more difficult, if not impossible. But Parliament President Mohammed Bagher Ghalibaf remained tough. The law is necessary to protect the interests of the Iranian people, he said.

Ruhani had to bend. The higher uranium enrichment, which is strictly forbidden under the 2015 treaty, has been running for a few days.

Hardliners are positioning themselves for the June presidential election. They are also demonstrating in the Persian Gulf that they want to thwart Ruhani's policies. Revolutionary Guard speedboats hijacked a South Korean tanker and its 20 crew members - a few days before South Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong-kun's visit to Tehran.

During the visit, Ruhani's government wants the Koreans to release $ 7 billion in Iranian assets that have been frozen in the wake of US sanctions. "We are not hostage-takers," said government spokesman Ali Rabiei on Tuesday, although the Revolutionary Guard's action looked very much like it.

From the people's point of view, President Ruhani could not deliver

Ruhani has long struggled with arch-conservative forces like the Revolutionary Guard, who reject his relatively moderate policies and an opening up of the country. But recently the confrontation has intensified.

In part, that's because many Iranians see Ruhani failing. He had promised them more prosperity after the conclusion of the nuclear treaty, because in return for strict restrictions on the Iranian nuclear program, the Islamic Republic should benefit from a relaxation of western sanctions.

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But the project failed. US President Donald Trump terminated the treaty two years ago and has since tried to bring Iran to its knees with ever new sanctions and “maximum pressure”. In addition to the economic problems caused by the sanctions, there is corruption and government failure.

Half a year before the presidential election on June 18, Ruhani's supporters are therefore the losers. They already suffered a defeat in the parliamentary elections last year. Head of Parliament Ghalibaf is a hardliner and former Revolutionary Guard who has run for president three times. It is uncertain whether he will compete again this time due to corruption allegations against him.

Military as candidates for the presidential post

But other retired and active members of the military are also considered aspirants for the presidency. Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan, a close advisor to Revolutionary Leader Ali Khamenei, takes office. Never before in the history of the Islamic Republic have so many members or ex-officers of the Revolutionary Guard been in the running for president, commented the Israeli think tank Besa.

Applicants can only enter the race with the approval of the conservative Guardian Council, which reform-minded and moderate candidates have a hard time with.

Other hardliners strive for even higher degrees. Ebrahim Raisi, the head of the Iranian judiciary, is considered to be a possible successor to revolutionary leader Khamenei, the most powerful man in the country. Nobody knows how long the 81-year-old Chameini will be able to hold the office.

Most recently, on the anniversary of the death of General Qassem Soleimani last weekend, Raisi warned that the masterminds of the deadly US drone attack were nowhere on earth safe from Iranian vengeance.

The outgoing president, on the other hand, is trying to initiate relaxation between Iran and the USA with the new US administration under Joe Biden. Biden has announced that he will bring the US back to the nuclear deal if the Iranians should stick to the rules again.

However, the higher uranium enrichment and the new tensions in the Persian Gulf make a fresh start difficult. The disruptive maneuvers of the hardliners are likely to increase.

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