The commander of Iran’s Qods force Qassem Soleimani has said that “enemies” of the Islamic Republic want to renegotiate JCPOA or the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran in order to uproot Islamic movements. He called the attempt “JCPOA2”.
Islamic movements is a term used by Iranian officials for Islamist groups in the region and beyond who are loyal to Shiite Iran.
Soleimani added that “From the very beginning the enemy saw JCPOA as a three-pronged objective, not just one, and the other two were more important than the first”.
Mehr news agency quotes Soleimani as saying, “Obama wanted to reach the other two goals slowly, but Trump wants to traverse this road quickly and this road will lead to JCPOA3”.
The Islamic Revolution Guards commander did not give any further explanation about JCPOA 2 and 3.
The term “JCPOA2” was first used by President Hassan Rouhani three years ago when parliamentary elections led to the overwhelming victory of reformists and moderates. He called that developments the beginning of JCPOA2.
Following the Majles elections in March 2016 Rouhani was not only certain that he would win the 2017 presidential election, but he was reassured that his alliance with Majles Speaker Ali Larijani would give him the upper hand against hardliners and he could go further to make yet another deal with America.
He had said in his first speech after the JCPOA was agreed upon, that if the U.S. stood by its promises and if Iran benefited from the JCPOA, the road would be paved for talking on other matters, meaning negotiations on the Middle East and Iran's missile program. These were part of U.S. demands in 2014 when talks had started, but Iranians insisted at the time that they would not negotiate on anything except the nuclear issue.
Within hours of Rouhani’s remarks in March 2016, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in a speech in Mashad criticized the idea of JCPOA 2 and without referring to Rouhani said some people have pinned their hopes on negotiations with America to solve Iran's problems.
Subsequently, hardliners close to Khamenei started attacking the idea of further negotiations with the United States.
By JCPOA 2, Rouhani also meant to introduce a set of reforms including transparency in the country's financial affairs. He is still furthering that idea not necessarily in the interest of sheer transparency, but with the intention of putting pressure on unaccountable financial institutions under the aegis of Khamenei's office, such as the holy shrine in Mashad and for-profit businesses run by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps.
These entities benefitting from non-transparent economic advantages not only stifle healthy economic competition in Iran but are also unsupervised organizations feeding corruption and enriching hardliners who then stand against reforms and normalization of relations with the West.
At this point in time, Rouhani's second term in office is quickly coming to an end and he needs at least to be in a position as good as when he started the second term in 2017, to ensure a decent future beyond his presidency. The economic failure that escalated during 2018 has tarnished his image as a man who promised prudence and hope.
To regain his former status, he needs to achieve a few reforms to help normalize the country's economy, for instance by having the four anti-money laundering bills demanded by the international financial watchdog FATF. But hardliners in the Guardian Council, Expediency Council, and probably Khamenei's headquarters are standing on his way.
The United States left the JCPOA (nuclear agreement with Iran) in May 2018, demanding a broader agreement with Iran over its role in the region and its ballistic missile programs. In the meantime, the US re-imposed back-breaking sanctions on Tehran.
Soleimani's comments, were also his way of balancing his statements following Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif's resignation in which he supported Zarif as someone who is praised by Khamenei. Soleimani did not want the gesture to be taken as his support for the idea of opening up to America, which is what hardliners believe Rouhani and Zarif are doing.
Beyond factional disputes and constant infighting between various political groups, Soleimani's statement banning talks with America is yet another indication of the military's intervention in the affairs of the state, and against the underlying principle emphasized both in the Iranian constitution and even in the teachings of Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini who founded the Islamic Republic.