Iran Quietly Fearful of Republican Takeover of Congress

Iran hoping Obama inks favorable nuke deal during lame duck session

Hassan Rouhani
Hassan Rouhani / AP
November 6, 2014

Iranian leaders are quietly expressing fear about the Republican takeover of Congress Tuesday night, with many conveying concerns that Tehran has lost a key bloc of U.S. Democrats who wanted to roll back economic sanctions and hand Iran a favorable nuclear deal, according to an internal CIA analysis and Farsi language reports.

Fears about the Republican takeover of Congress have plagued Iranian leaders for weeks, according to the CIA analysis obtained by the Washington Free Beacon that outlines internal commotion in Iran over the shifting political tides in the United States.

The eventual outcome of Tuesday’s elections prompted many Iranian commenters and officials to express concern that years of U.S. capitulation to Iranian demands might soon come to an end.

Republican gains in Congress appear to have motivated Iran to work harder toward inking a nuclear deal with the Obama administration before the lame duck legislative session concludes, according to an official analysis by the CIA’s Open Source Center authored ahead of the midterm elections.

Some Iranians are now betting that the White House will fully lift sanctions before the new Congress assembles and that it will also sign a deal that permits Tehran to continue enriching uranium, the key component in a nuclear weapon.

"Iranian media from across the political spectrum have cautioned that potential Republican gains in the upcoming U.S. congressional mid-term elections could disrupt the ongoing nuclear negotiations," the CIA’s Open Source Center wrote in an Oct. 31 analysis marked unclassified but for official use only.

"Some commentary has focused on the possibility that political deadlock between President Obama and Republicans if the latter gain a majority in Congress would constrain the U.S. President's ability to strike a deal with Iran by [the] 24 November [deadline], while other commentators have highlighted concerns that Republicans may be more reluctant to ease sanctions on Iran, which is a key point of contention for Iran in nuclear negotiations," according to the CIA analysis.

Tehran’s fears came to fruition on Tuesday night and prompted Iranian commenters and even government officials to express a renewed sense of urgency about finalizing a nuclear deal with the White House.

The spokesman for the Iranian Parliament’s National Security Committee predicted negotiations with the Obama administration would continue, but added that Americans must now "drink the cup of poison" as a result of the elections, according to a Persian language report in Iran’s Fars News Agency.

"The change in the balance of power in Senate has no effect on the nuclear negotiations," Seyyed Hussain Naqavi Husseini, spokesperson for Iran’s National Security Committee of its Parliament, was quoted as saying.

The "Islamic Republic knows that due to Zionists’ influence in U.S. domestic and foreign policy, it is difficult for U.S. politicians to make a decision but this time they should drink the cup of poison," Hussaini said. "Americans should recognize Iran’s rights and if they do that we can reach to agreement."

Continued talks with Iran hinge on Obama’s ability to lift sanctions, according to the CIA analysis.

"Hardline media in the past few months questioned the efficacy of nuclear talks if the U.S. president is unable to lift sanctions unilaterally," the Open Source Center wrote. "They also have exploited disagreements on the nuclear negotiations in the domestic U.S. political arena as a means to warn President Hassan Rouhani to remember Iranian domestic political obligations when considering terms agreed to in any final deal."

Conservative Iranian pundit Fuad Izadi admitted on Wednesday that the situation had just gotten "much worse" as a result of the elections since a Republican Congress is likely to try to block any nuclear deal that they view as too favorable to Tehran.

Other Iranian analysts labeled the next two months as critical for the Obama administration to reach a deal with Iran.

Iranian president Hassan Rouhani’s top adviser also had expressed concern about Republicans gaining control in an interview last month.

"Conservatives are war mongers, they cannot tolerate powers like Iran," Ali Younesi, Rouhani’s senior adviser, said at the time. "If conservatives were in power they would go to war with us because they follow Israel and they want to portray Iran as the main threat and not [the Islamic State]."

Younesi also favored U.S. Democrats and even praised them for viewing Iran as "no threat."

"We [the Islamic Republic] have to use this opportunity [of Democrats being in power in the U.S.], because if this opportunity is lost, in future we may not have such an opportunity again," Younesi said.

Multiple commentaries in Iranian newspapers also expressed this sentiment in the weeks leading up to the election.

An Oct. 27 article in the "hardline daily Resalat" stated "that a Republican mid-term victory would ‘complicate’ the U.S. president's relationship with Congress," according to a summary by the CIA’s Open Source Center. "It posited that if the U.S. president loses the ability to ‘contain’ Congress, any nuclear deal with Iran would be in danger of ‘rapid destruction.’"

President Obama hinted on Wednesday during a press conference that his administration is considering permitting Iran to keep parts of its nuclear infrastructure.

"We have presented to them a framework that will allow them to meet their peaceful energy needs," Obama said.

The United States is offering Iran "an avenue" that would "in a progressive, step by step, verifiable way allow them to get out from under sanctions so they can reenter as full fledged members of the international community"

"Whether they [Iran] can manage to say yes" to a deal remains "an open question," Obama said, declining to address reports that he is intent on circumventing Congress.

Iranian commenters on Twitter and Facebook said they see the window quickly closing on a possible nuclear deal following the U.S. election.

"If not resolved by the end of Obama's tenure, Iran's nuclear issue will become more complicated," tweeted one user included in the Open Source Center’s roundup of Iranian tweets on the issue. "If Republicans come to power, then the situation will get worse."

"The Republicans' majority in the Senate will give Iran a devil of a time," stated another.

Iranian Facebook users were similarly pessimistic.

"It seems the goal of the victory of Republicans and their propaganda is to send a message to the Middle East stating if the Republicans win, the political situation will change, including the process of Iran's nuclear negotiations," wrote a person identified as Bahram Golzadeh. "And as a result the other side of talks, [Iran] will try its best to reach a final agreement."

Former Pentagon adviser Michael Rubin said that the Iranians recognize U.S. voters rejected the White House’s conciliatory outreach towards Tehran.

"Rouhani is like a con artist who, amazed by the naiveté of his target, keeps pushing for more," said Rubin, who studies rogue regimes. "Well, if the Islamic Republic thought that there would be no end to America's gullibility, it was wrong. Weakness does not sell well to the American public."

"What we will see is a headlong rush with Obama and Rouhani working together to seal a deal against the national security interests of the American people," Rubin said.

Saeed Ghasseminejad, an Iranian dissident and associate fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), said Iranians continue to view Obama as a weak leader.

"They believe Obama looks at the Iran deal as his foreign policy legacy and he desperately needs such a deal," Ghasseminejad said, noting that a Republican Congress has the power to boost sanctions.

"It seems that conservatives in Iran are happy with the current situation: Partial sanction relief for minor retreats in its nuclear program," he explained. "The new Senate can put pressure on mullahs in Tehran by passing a new sanctions bill and increase the cost of the time Iran is buying to make progress in its nuclear program."

Published under: Iran , Nuclear Weapons