TEHRAN — Flexing their muscles, some of the toughest anti-American voices in Iran said on Tuesday that the United States remains their country’s top enemy, guilty of “uncountable” crimes. Their remarks hinted at a developing struggle over domestic influence because of the nuclear deal with world powers.
The head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, announced plans to expand the reach of Iran’s missiles and warned that despite the nuclear deal, America is still the “same Great Satan.”
General Jafari criticized advocates of improved ties, led by the government of President Hassan Rouhani, who has repeatedly said that his administration wants a better relationship with the United States.
“We should not be cheated by the new slogans of this country,” General Jafari said, referring to the United States, during a speech at the Tehran Sarallah military base, according to the semiofficial Fars News Agency.
His remarks were echoed by Mohammad Yazdi, the head of an influential clerical council, who warned that the nuclear agreement should not portend any broader political reconciliation with the United States, which broke relations with Iran 35 years ago.
“We should not change our foreign policy of opposition to America, our No. 1 enemy, whose crimes are uncountable,” Mr. Yazdi said in a speech opening an annual meeting of the council, the Assembly of Experts, an 86-member group that in theory has the power to dismiss the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
And, no, Iran’s 79 million consumers are not opening up to the United States, Mr. Yazdi said.
“The U.S. will take this dream of coming to the market of Iran and getting the income it used to make before the revolution to its grave,” he was quoted as saying by the official Islamic Republic News Agency.
Their remarks were publicized as police officers in Tehran took to the streets, arresting distributors selling clothes featuring American and British symbols, like the Stars and Stripes and the Union Jack.
Tehran’s police chief, Gen. Hossein Sajedinia, was quoted by the semiofficial Islamic Students News Agency as saying that garments imprinted with “satanic symbols” had been seized from stores in Tehran.
The fiercest criticism aimed at the government, which negotiated the nuclear deal, came from General Jafari, Iran’s most important military figure.
Not directly addressing President Rouhani’s administration at first, the general was quoted by Fars as saying that the “assumptions by some,” thinking the enmity of the United States has ended, are a “main reason for concern.”
“What causes even greater concern is that with this simple-minded attitude these people believe that we need to choose another path and should change our behavior,” he was quoted as saying.
The nuclear agreement, reached in July between Iran and six world powers including the United States, will end most sanctions on Iran in exchange for verifiable guarantees that Iranian nuclear activities remain peaceful.
Opposition to the agreement is strong in the United States Congress, where many lawmakers have expressed intense distrust of Iran. But it increasingly appears that congressional critics lack sufficient votes to overturn the agreement.
For hard-liners in Iran like General Jafari, the agreement represents a loss of power to supporters of Mr. Rouhani’s government. Iran has scheduled parliamentary elections for February 2016 and the government is still riding a wave of success over the prospect of sanctions relief.
Attention in Iran is starting to turn to domestic politics, with supporters of Mr. Rouhani expecting him to proceed with more economic changes and personal freedoms. Hard-liners seem intent on trying to block him.
General Jafari, in his quoted remarks on Tuesday before a group of military figures, told them to prepare for new American threats, and he advised the government of Mr. Rouhani to do the same.
“The enemy has now resorted to using soft political and economic power,” he said of the United States, alluding to the sanctions and the nuclear deal. “The answer to these kinds of threats after the deal could be for the government of the Islamic Republic to adopt a revolutionary and clearer stance.”
Mr. Jafari and military commanders have shown concern over a possible constraints on Iran’s missile program, under a provision of the nuclear agreement. In line with earlier United Nations Security Council sanctions, the agreement calls for limits on the missiles, which are regarded as vital to Iran’s military strategy.
Mr. Jafari said the range of missiles — now 2,000 kilometers, about 1,242 miles — would be increased. He also announced 20 military drills, but did not mention whether those would involve new missile tests. He also stressed that the Revolutionary Guards would stay involved in the economy as well.
“After over 20 years of engagement in civilian projects, the Revolutionary Guards Corps has enough experience in and we will continue our projects,” he said.
The public display of military defiance was not unexpected, given the influence the Revolutionary Guards have amassed over the decades of anti-American animosity.
“Our commanders will refuse any influence by the United States in our country,” said Hamidreza Taraghi, a hard-line analyst. “Today they showed the enemy will never be able to limit our capabilities and resolve.”
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(via NY Times)