After a closed-door briefing at parliament, on May 24, conservative lawmaker Mehdi Koochakzadeh accused Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif of treason and ignoring Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s limits in the nuclear negotiations. Zarif said Koochakzadeh had no right to speak for the supreme leader. In a meeting with lawmakers three days later, Khamenei warned them against insulting ministers.
The face-to face-argument on the floor of parliament, however, reflected the wider debate in Iran over the nuclear talks. Some hardliners have repeatedly accused Zarif and his negotiating team of making too many concessions in talks with the world’s six major powers —Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States. Khamenei has periodically stepped in when criticism of Iran’s negotiating team has become particularly caustic. In 2013, he had warned officials not to call the negotiators “compromisers.”
Despite Khamenei’s support for Zarif and his team, hardliner lawmakers have repeatedly criticized their conduct. For example, more than 100 lawmakers, students, academics and activists attended a conference in 2014 titled “We’re Worried” — advertised as “the great gathering of critics of a weak deal.”
Earlier in May, Iran’s negotiators were more optimistic about brokering an agreement by the end of June. But just before the latest round of talks began in Vienna on May 27, Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi said the self-imposed deadline might be extended. The following are recent excerpted remarks by Iranian officials on the nuclear talks.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
“There are many solutions to the nuclear issue all of which rely on the domestic capacities and reinforcing [domestic] production.
“If we boost production and use domestic potentialities, this will not only solve internal problems, but also facilitate settlement of foreign issues such as the nuclear one.”
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif
“Time and again, members of the [Iranian] negotiating delegation and I have stressed that [we] will certainly not allow the Western side to make excessive demands in the nuclear negotiations.
“Definitely, the negotiating team feels obliged to abide by the [Islamic] establishment’s red lines in all issues in the nuclear talks.”
“The Americans have adopted a carrot-and-stick policy over the past 30 years. We promise to effectively and properly defend Iran’s nuclear achievements.”
—May 24, 2015 in a closed door session of parliament
“The Iranian negotiating team will definitely abide by the Leader’s views on all issues pertaining to the nuclear negotiations.”
“The nuclear negotiations can yield results if the other side shows pragmatism.”
—May 26, 2015 in a meeting with Omani Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi
Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi
“The deadline might be extended and the talks might continue after the June 30 [deadline]. We are not bound to a specific time. We want a good deal that covers our demands.”
“The talks are serious, complicated and detailed. The pace of talks is slow as we have entered final stages.”
“Some solutions have been proposed and we are working on them. For us, the principle of simultaneity is very important.
“The final text of the deal will be about 60 pages
including 20 pages of the main text and five attachments.”
[of timing and phasing] is still under discussion. We need a timetable to start implementing the measures that both sides have undertaken, and that may take some months. First of all, we have to wait for – something about two months – for the American Congress and probably Iranian Majlis to review the agreement and decide, and whenever the U.S. government, the European governments and the Iranian government express their readiness to start the implementation of the agreement, we [will] actually start doing what we are supposed to do. And that may take two months before we do anything because of these initiatives by the Congress and Majlis.
“So we have already two months of waiting and then we need a timetable that we are still working on that. We should do something, the other side should do something. We insist on the principal of simultaneity. Everything that both sides are supposed to do should be at the same time and simultaneous. Of course, we have some differences here – how to manage that, how to fix everything in a simultaneous way. We’re working on this timetable and this is one of our differences that we have still kept in brackets and we are trying to resolve that.
“It [the agreement] will still be based on the principal that all economic and financial sanctions should be removed at once.”
“Removal of sanctions in the economic sector is being discussed so that the other side will remove the sanctions structures in a document and declare that if Iran acts upon its undertakings, they will remove the sanctions.”
—May 24, 2015 in a closed-door session of parliament
Chairman of Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee Alaeddin Boroujerdi
“The Islamic Republic is on one side of the scale, and all the [world’s major] powers are on the other side, and we must pass through this crisis while maintaining our [nuclear] capabilities. We have passed a bill which sets the conditions for inspections; we have to save our shouting for America, not the Foreign Minister of Iran.”
Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani
“It is the duty of Parliament to support the nuclear [negotiation] team” but the “Additional Protocol [of the International Atomic Energy Agency] has to be approved by Parliament.”
—May 24, 2015 following the argument between Koochakzadeh and Zarif
Supreme Leader's Deputy Representative to the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps Brigadier General Mohammad Ali Asoudi
“Tehran's strategy is resistance, and we will make the U.S. bow to Iran by using this strategy.
“The enemy has always made use of threats in negotiations, and negotiation under the shadow of threat is meaningless.
Member of Parliament Mehdi Koochakzadeh
“Mr. Zarif considers himself to be at the center of the world, and yelled that ‘those who compromise our unity call me a traitor.’”
“We were just reminding him about the Supreme Leader's instructions.”
—May 24, 2015 in an interview with Shargh Daily
Garrett Nada is the assistant editor of The Iran Primer at USIP.