Why did Iran’s parliament hold hearings on the nuclear deal?


The Washington Post - October 6, 2015

Amir Hossein Mahdavi is a researcher at the Crown Center.

After much heated debate and three failed attempts by the Republican majority Senate to block it, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1 entered its implementation phase. However, the vocal opposition of many U.S. Senators may have inspired political debate far beyond the United States.

In July, Iranian state television broadcast a live U.S. congressional hearing to the general public for the first time in its history. Although the testimony at the hearing was replete with bitter rhetoric directed at the Iranian government, the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei managed to exploit it for his own purposes. Following the hearings, Khamenei authorized the Iranian parliament (Majles) to become involved in the nuclear deal — from which it had previously been excluded — as a kind of retaliatory measure. The most extreme of the Iranian MPs, who are close to the IRGC, subsequently established a special JCPOA commission. Although this commission had no authority to change the provisions of the deal, its hearings, too, were broadcast live. In some respects, these hearings, and the manner in which Iranian leaders expressed their disapproval, were the first Iranian imports from the United States. By allowing hard-liner Iranian MPs to speak out about the JCPOA, the Supreme Leader accomplished several key goals.

After the nuclear deal was reached in Vienna, attacks on the agreement — by Republicans, by the State of Israel and by some Gulf Cooperation Council members — commenced. They were so severe that Iran’s Supreme Leader began having concerns about the possibility of unilateral termination by the United States. Iran had learned from the 2005 American disapproval of an agreement reached between Iran and the European troika to approach the deal with caution. In August, Khamenei insisted that nothing was final; both the United States and Iran could potentially reject the deal. Khamenei had to simultaneously assure the P5+1 that the agreement would not be jeopardized by Iran and keep Iran’s position reversible. He had a tough road ahead. On the one hand, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had made clear that his administration would be unable to govern if a nuclear deal was not reached. On the other hand, if the Supreme Leader announced his full compliance with the deal and the U.S. Congress rejected it, not only would the Iranian government pay the political cost of having compromised with the United States, but it also would have gained nothing from having done so. Inviting the Majles to participate in the process was, perhaps, a means of hedging his bets. ... Read the Full Text