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World With U.S. scholar’s conviction, power struggle escalates between Iran’s president and hard-liners

06:51  19 july  2017
06:51  19 july  2017 Source:   msn.com

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ISTANBUL — A high-stakes power struggle between Iran ’ s moderate president and his hard - line opponents in the judiciary appeared to escalate with the arrest of the president ’ s brother and the conviction of an American student for espionage this weekend — rulings that seemed timed to embarrass the Iranian leader at home and abroad. President Hassan Rouhani, who was reelected in a landslide in May , has challenged the conservative establishment by pledging reforms in Iran and advocating diplomacy and openness toward the rest of the world.

With U . S . scholar ’ s conviction , power struggle escalates between Iran ’ s president and hard - liners .

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, shown at the U.N. General Assembly last year.© Lucas Jackson/Reuters Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, shown at the U.N. General Assembly last year.

ISTANBUL — A high-stakes power struggle between Iran’s moderate president and his hard-line opponents in the judiciary appeared to escalate with the arrest of the president’s brother and the conviction of an American student for espionage this weekend — rulings that seemed timed to embarrass the Iranian leader at home and abroad.

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President Hassan Rouhani, who was reelected in a landslide in May, has challenged the conservative establishment by pledging reforms in Iran and advocating diplomacy and openness toward the rest of the world. His recent criticisms of the hard-line judiciary and powerful security forces have prompted public rebukes from the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who wields ultimate authority in Iran.

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In Iran , women are required to wear headscarves and modest clothing in public. Women are also banned from dancing in front of men who are not from their immediate families. Authorities have forbidden the teaching of Zumba and other dances, even in women-only gyms. With U . S . scholar ’ s conviction , power struggle escalates between Iran ’ s president and hard - liners . Even after Rouhani' s reelection, Iran ' s religious elite have not relented.

Read Next: With U . S . scholar ’ s conviction , power struggle escalates between Iran ’ s president and hard - liners . “ Iran ’ s continued support for terrorism and development of its ballistic missile program poses a threat to the region, to our partners worldwide, and to the United States. Today’ s action is part of Treasury’ s ongoing efforts to counter Iranian malign activity abroad that is outside the scope of the JCPOA,” said Acting OFAC Director John E. Smith, as cited in the Treasure Department press release.

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The tensions come as Iran and the United States spar over the terms of a nuclear deal struck with world powers to limit Iran’s nuclear weapons program. On Monday, the White House grudgingly certified to Congress that Iran is in compliance with the deal, which was negotiated by the Obama administration and lifts major sanctions. The Trump administration has taken a much harsher stance on Iran, threatening to abandon the deal, and the Treasury Department on Tuesday announced new sanctions primarily targeting Iran’s ballistic missile program.

But the moves by Iran’s judiciary — including the sentencing of a Princeton graduate student, Xiyue Wang, to 10 years in prison for spying — also undermine Rouhani’s attempts to build better relations with the West, which more-reactionary Iranian institutions such as the judiciary oppose. And they suggest an effort by ruling clerics to pressure the president to back down from confrontation on the domestic front, particularly ahead of the official inauguration of his second term next month, when Rouhani will pick his new cabinet.

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Faced with a shortage of medical supplies and a worsening coronavirus outbreak, Iran ’ s government has cracked down on hoarders stockpiling masks and disinfectant. Yet, on Sunday, a youth arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said it was ready to dispatch a cargo of those badly-needed The offer of assistance to the U . S . shows how Iran ’ s hard - liners , led by the country’ s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and the Revolutionary Guard, the country’ s premier security force, have at key moments worked at cross-purposes with the country’ s elected government, which has struggled to

However, hard - liners within Iran ’ s judiciary and security services will continue to pressure Rouhani in different ways. Even before the vote, hard - line elements routinely detained dual nationals, likely seeking concessions from the West. Hard - liners probably will challenge Rouhani in the country’ s parliament, especially over social issues or any measure that appears to be accepting or promoting Western culture. The paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, which answers to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, will continue to launch ballistic missiles and have close encounters with U . S . Navy vessels

More broadly, however, the actions by the judiciary and Khamenei paint a picture of a hard-line establishment hitting back at an outspoken and popular president who has promised to curb some of the regime’s worst excesses.

Rouhani’s pro-reform agenda “poses a major threat to their worldview and political agenda,” Nader Hashemi, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Denver, said of the hard-liners.

In recent weeks as well as during the May presidential campaign, Rouhani rapped the judiciary for what he said were arbitrary arrests and a history of atrocities. He also criticized the economic role of the elite Revolutionary Guard, Iran’s most powerful security institution, at the expense of the country’s private sector.

Those admonishments prompted Khamenei to publicly defend the judiciary.

“The judiciary should be a pioneer in establishing public rights within the society . . . and confront anyone who violates laws,” Khamenei said in a speech this month, according to the Center for Human Rights in Iran, an independent nonprofit based in New York.

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ISTANBUL — A high-stakes power struggle between Iran ’ s moderate president and his hard - line opponents in the judiciary appeared to escalate with the arrest of the president ’ s brother and the conviction of an American student for espionage this weekend — rulings that seemed timed to embarrass the Iranian leader at Conflicts between the executive and the judiciary in Iran are legend and reoccur at least every other year. They are independent of the president being "moderate" or " hard - line " himself. Consider the obvious similarities between the above lede and this one from 2012

(Bloomberg) -- Iranian hard - liners headed for victory in parliamentary elections, sweeping Tehran and other cities in a repudiation of President Hassan Rouhani’ s engagement with outside powers . The vote was widely predicted to hand control of the legislature to conservatives empowered by the country’ s revived, economically damaging standoff with the U . S . Preliminary results show that hard - liners won a majority of the 290 seats, according to a tally Hard - liners and conservatives won all 30 seats in Tehran, the largest and most influential constituency, Fars said Saturday after polls closed at midnight.

Rouhani, addressing a gathering of judicial officials the previous day, had called on jurists to limit the practice of summoning people for interrogation without due cause.

Last month, Khamenei dressed down the president in front of the country’s most senior politicians, warning Rouhani against suffering a similar fate to Iran’s first post-revolution president, who served from 1980 to 1981. Abolhassan Banisadr was impeached after facing off against the powerful clergy and was forced to flee to France.

“Using the institutions of the state that they control — primarily the judiciary — they are sending a message to Rouhani and his supporters that they are in control of the political system,” Hashemi said. “And that they will oppose his attempts to engage with the Western world and promote more freedoms at home.”

The arrest and conviction of Wang, a 37-year-old scholar at Princeton, appeared to target Rouhani’s wider foreign policy and engagement with the West. Although Wang was detained in August 2016, the timing of the verdict is suspect, analysts say.

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  American scholar jailed in Iran is innocent, professor says A Chinese-American graduate student at Princeton sentenced to 10 years in prison in Iran for allegedly "infiltrating" the country and sending confidential material abroad is innocent of all charges against him. Kotkin told The Associated Press by email that Xiyue Wang is a "remarkable, linguistically gifted graduate student" who studied governance in 19th and early 20th century Muslim regions.

“Why did they keep it a secret as long as they did? Timing is important,” said Alex Vatanka, an Iran expert at the Middle East Institute in Washington.

Wang, who colleagues say traveled to Iran to research the Persian Empire’s Qajar dynasty for his thesis, was accused of attempting to create a digital archive for the State Department and Western academic institutions.

“Wang’s sentencing by the Iranian judiciary is yet another indicator that the hardest of Iran’s hard-liners are the ones who set the direction for Iranian domestic and foreign policy,” said Behnam Ben Taleblu, an Iran analyst at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies in Washington.

But the arrest of Rouhani’s brother, Hossein Fereydoun, appeared to be a more immediate and direct attack on Rouhani. Fereydoun is a close adviser of the president and was a key player in nuclear negotiations. He came under attack by conservatives this year for alleged financial impropriety, although the formal charges are still unclear.

Corruption and graft are widespread in Iran, but the probes “are often politically motivated phenomenon,” Taleblu said, adding that they “have more to do with political score-settling than reforming business practices.”

“Elements of the Iranian judiciary and hard-line establishment have been looking at taking down Fereydoun for quite some time,” he said.

According to Suzanne Maloney, senior fellow and expert on Iran at the Brookings Institution, targeting Rouhani’s brother “is a very convenient way to cause pain to the family without necessarily provoking a crisis of office.”

“The general message that the rest of the system is trying to send to Rouhani is not to get too far ahead of himself,” she said, “to not allow his decisive election victory to give him illusions of greater autonomy and authority than his position actually has.”

Whether Rouhani will bow to the pressure remains to be seen. During his first term, the president deferred to the supreme leader and failed to push through more serious reforms.

The relationship between Rouhani and Khamenei in the coming years “will be tense,” Hashemi said. “There has been an ongoing public feud between both figures, but ultimately power lies with the supreme leader.”

“If I had to bet, my bet would be for Rouhani to reluctantly submit to the limits established by the supreme leader,” he said. “All second-term Iranian presidents had to do this.”

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