Tehran, Iran – Candidates for the presidency of Iran have once again clashed during their third and final televised debate, this time in a more open manner, especially with regard to the 2015 nuclear deal with the world powers and the U.S. sanctions.
The seven men, five conservatives and hardliners, one moderate and one reformist, took advantage of the slightly improved “debate” format on Saturday to talk more directly and in detail about the corruption and mismanagement that they say has diverted the country.
After most of the candidates criticized the two previous debates that did not incorporate moderation and saw them not answering the same questions, state television began the final act by asking a question about people’s problems to all participants.
Several candidates discussed the need for a review of the government’s management style, in addition to fighting corruption and supporting marginalized Iranians, once again without providing many details on how their plans would be implemented.
But most of all, he spent much more time on the nuclear deal, or the Joint Comprehensive Action Plan (JCPOA), and the harsh sanctions the United States has imposed since 2018, when former President Donald Trump withdrew. unilaterally their country of the reference agreement.
The issue had been ignored during the previous two debates, as the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had said that last month foreign policy was not one of the “main problems of the people”.
But moderate candidate Abdolnaser Hemmati, who headed the central bank until earlier this month, when he was ousted to run for president, harshly criticized domestic political forces opposing the JCPOA.
“What will happen if power falls into the hands of the defenders?” he asked directly to Ebrahim Raisi, who heads the judiciary and is seen as the leader at the polls.
“I have no reservations to say that there will be new sanctions with more international consensus,” he said in reference to the period before the JCPOA, when Iran was under multilateral sanctions.
The technocrat warned that Raisi and other like-minded politicians do not want the sanctions lifted, as it would cut off the country’s forces that take advantage of it and said “all this time you have been playing on Trump’s track with your actions hard “.
He also confronted those who oppose ratification of the remaining legislation to complete Iran’s financial transparency action plan with the Intergovernmental Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
“Turn the table”
In response, Raisi said he will remain committed to the JCPOA like any other state agreement.
However, he said the effective implementation of the agreement requires a “strong” government, adding that the outgoing administration of moderate President Hassan Rouhani was not as such.
On the FATF, which currently only has Iran and North Korea on its blacklist of non-cooperating countries, he said he does not support it because it does not guarantee “the interests of our nation.”
Hardline candidates Saeed Jalili, one of the top nuclear negotiators, and Mohsen Rezaei, a former commander-in-chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), said their potential governments will “regret the enemy” for sanctioning the Iran boosting local production and “canceling” sanctions.
“The JCPOA is a bad control,” Jalili said, while Rezaei said Iran should “turn the table, or at least slap the table” when it faces the U.S. renouncing the deal and they are trying to take advantage of sanctions to make demands on Iran.
Just as the candidates were facing each other, a sixth round of talks began in Vienna to restore the JCPOA, with world powers continuing the diplomacy of U.S. delegates as Iran refused to meet. be directly with Washington.
It seems unlikely that an agreement can be reached to restore the agreement before Iran’s presidential election. Meanwhile, the one-month extension of the content of an agreement Iran reached with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to continue monitoring its nuclear sites ends on June 24.
Russia’s top negotiator, Mikhail Ulyanov, said in a tweet on Saturday that “we all want to do it as soon as possible, but the quality of a final document comes first.”
A day earlier, top negotiators in Iran and the United States took part in a scrupulous Twitter campaign as Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi slammed Robert Malley’s “crocodile tears”, which he had said were “saddened” by the death of political prisoner Sasan Niknafas in questionable circumstances. in an Iranian prison.
“Economic terrorism in the midst of a pandemic is a crime against humanity,” he wrote in reference to U.S. sanctions.
Candidates oppose disqualifications
Meanwhile, Iran will soon open polling booths as criticism continues about a widespread disqualification of reformist and moderate candidates.
On Saturday, the adviser to the supreme leader and former three-time speaker of parliament Ali Larijani, a pragmatist who was expected to present the biggest challenge to Raisi, protested his disqualification by the well-known constitutional review body. as Council of the Guard.
In a statement, he said a ruling by the supreme leader entitles him to know why he was disqualified, especially because reports that his daughter lives and studies abroad turned out to be false. Larijani asked the hardline council to make its reasoning public.
Council spokesman Abas Ali Kadkhodaei responded quickly and said in a tweet that the disqualifications were decided “based on sufficient and reliable evidence and documents, and that no provision has been made for the rule of the presidential election to protest “against disqualifications and make public reasons.
A prominent former presidential candidate and opposition leader also criticized the 2021 election.
Mir-Hossein Mousavi, whose defeat prevented the re-election of hardline president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, led to the 2009 Green Movement protests, saying he is on the side of those who can no longer stand “humiliating elections” and designed “.
Mousavi, who has been under house arrest without trial since widespread protests, warned that the persistence of the current style of oversight by the Guardian Council could leave the title of “Islamic republic” meaningless to the country.
The next election is expected to be characterized by low turnout amid public disillusionment, with some polls placing turnout below 40%, which would be the lowest since the country’s 1979 Islamic revolution.
The much-criticized debates will not generate much public excitement either, as polls suggest that less than four out of ten Iranians saw the previous two.