Iranian Responses to Netanyahu's Speech Reflect Political Divide

Hard-line newspaper says Netanyahu's address to Congress was part of a U.S.-Israel ploy to deceive the Iranian negotiating team.

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Iranian President Hassan Rohani at a public appearance last month.Credit: AFP

Iranian officials reacted with predictable condemnation and dismissal to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech to the United States Congress on Tuesday.

"Only an aggressive and occupying regime which sees its existence as dependent on war and aggression and always disturbs the establishment of regional peace and security can be furious" at the ongoing nuclear negotiations, Iranian President Hassan Rohani said during a cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani said that the U.S. Congress had been "hired" by Israel and described Netanyahu's concerns about a nuclear Iran as "ridiculous," coming as they did from a regime that "has had over 200 nuclear warheads for years."

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marziyeh Afkham described the speech as "a deceitful show and part of an electoral campaign made by radicals in Tel Aviv" and commented that Netanyahu should "show a little respect for the powers of understanding and reasoning of the world's nations."

But there were also other voices, reflecting the deep rift in Iran between the hard-liners who reject any agreement and the moderates, led by Rohani, who are in charge of the negotiations with six world powers.

The hard-line newspaper Kayhan, whose editor is chosen by the supreme leader, dismissed Netanyahu's speech and the controversy surrounding it as a ploy to get Iran to sign a bad deal, al-Monitor reported.

Headlined “Netanyahu’s mission to support the Geneva agreement under the guise of opposition,” the paper's lead story accused Israel and the United States of engaging in a “jeweler’s war” – in which two sides work together to fake a conflict – in order to force Iran’s nuclear negotiators to make an “incorrect calculation” in the nuclear talks.

Israel’s opposition to the Geneva interim nuclear deal was “political maneuvering,” the paper said, designed to allow the United States to force Iran into more concessions. Netanyahu’s opposition to a nuclear deal was intended to “deceive the Iranian team," Khayan wrote.

Taking the opposite tack, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former president of Iran and currently head of the influential Expediency Council, compared Iran’s hard-liners and critics of a nuclear deal to Israel's prime minister.

Rafsanjani told a meeting at the country's Interior Ministry that that the nuclear negotiations were “the most important project for the administration” and reminded his listeners that the negotiators were supported by the supreme leader.

Using the term "the concerned," which is commonly used in Iran to refer to the hard-liners, Rafsanjani said: "I don’t know what happens to them that these ‘concerned’ parties are in harmony with Netanyahu.”

Netanyahu went to Washington “to provoke [President Barack] Obama, and here the concerned say they will reveal secrets," Rafsanjani said.

Vatan-e Emrooz newspaper struck back by saying that Rafsanjani's comments were either the beginning of attacks on nuclear critics in anticipation of the failure of the talks or an indication that Iran was preparing to accept the strict nuclear terms set out by the United States.