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Some lawmakers in Iran fear nuke accord

| Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014, 5:21 p.m.

TEHRAN — As Iran and world powers move closer to a long-term agreement over the Islamic republic's nuclear activities, domestic political struggles here are threatening to undermine the diplomatic process, which both the White House and the administration of Iran's president, Hassan Rouhani, say is on the right track.

Despite wide public support and the approval of important blocs of politicians and clerics, a range of opponents, mostly in Iran's parliament, worry they could lose influence if a solution to the nuclear dispute is struck without their involvement in the negotiations.

The tough line taken by Iranian lawmakers mirrors that taken in Congress, where some are pushing for more sanctions on Tehran. President Obama has vowed to veto any new sanctions legislation while talks are ongoing.

On Monday, Iran's Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, told the German Council on Foreign Relations that “with good will, we can reach an agreement within six months.”

But skeptics in both Tehran and Washington caution against rushing into a deal that could potentially favor the other side.

As new talks are scheduled to begin in Vienna on Feb. 18, these figures are becoming increasingly critical of the Islamic republic's negotiating team.

“The West has so far not shown any serious intention to solve this issue that they created themselves,” Vahid Ahmadi, a cleric and lawmaker who sits on the parliament's foreign relations commissions, said in a session of parliament Monday. “Although we will keep our commitments, we will never cross our red line, which is to maintain our nuclear achievements.”

Since the nuclear dossier was transferred to the control of Iran's foreign ministry soon after Rouhani took office, the hard-line media and conservative members of Iran's parliament have sought to require more oversight in future rounds of nuclear talks, citing a lack of transparency as their biggest complaint.

On Sunday, in a sign that conservatives may be regaining some political clout lost since Rouhani's election, members of the foreign policy commission said they had reached an agreement with the administration to add a member of parliament to the negotiating team, which would likely quiet some of the loudest critics among them.

Members of Iran's political establishment who have long argued that the conflict with the United States is an existential one and who consider normalized relations incongruous with decades of anti-Western policy and rhetoric stand to lose the most if a compromise is reached, say analysts.

For these hard-liners, “the mere reaching of an agreement will cause an ideological crisis,” said U.S.-based Iran analyst Farideh Farhi, who recently returned from several months in Iran.

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