EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: A heated debate is underway in Tehran over whether or not to remain in the JCPOA following the US withdrawal. President Rouhani believes the cost of leaving is too high, but hardline Iranian conservatives – who never wanted the deal to begin with – want out. It remains to be seen what Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei will decide.
Following the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), President Donald Trump has re-imposed unilateral sanctions on Iran, targeting the country’s core banking system, oil sales, and conduits to the global financial system. The most onerous sanction of all is preventing Iranian banks from using the Belgium-based Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) network, the largest electronic payment network in the world.
The harsh measures have set the stage for a revival of political infighting within Iran’s complex and opaque political structure. A heated debate is going on among political elites and in the Farsi media in Tehran over whether to remain a party to the nuclear agreement or withdraw from the pact. A review of Farsi media outlets indicates that President Hassan Rouhani and his followers believe Tehran should remain because “the cost of leaving the deal is too high for the country.” But his rival force, the conservative camp, is preparing to exit the nuclear agreement – which it opposed in the first place.