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Iran hard-liners, pragmatists show unity against Trump

Reuters

Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commander Mohammad Ali Jafari, left, and Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif smile during a meeting for the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, in Tehran on Monday.

Reuters LONDON (Reuters) — A tough line from U.S. President Donald Trump has been met by a show of unity from both sides of Iran’s political divide, uniting hard-liners who cast the United States as an implacable enemy with pragmatists who seek rapprochement with the West.

Iran, which has kept up a steady drumbeat of angry statements for days, lashed out again on Tuesday, threatening to teach the Americans “new lessons” and keep “all options on the table” if Washington blacklists its Revolutionary Guards.

Trump, who has accused his predecessor Barack Obama of being too soft on Iran, is expected to announce a hardening of policy this week, likely to include “decertifying” a landmark 2015 deal that lifted international sanctions in return for curbs on Tehran’s nuclear program. Such a step would stop short of pulling out of the agreement, leaving that decision to Congress.

Trump is also expected to designate Iran’s most powerful security force, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), as a terrorist organization. The IRGC has a vast economic empire in Iran, and blacklisting it could make it more difficult for Iranian businesses to access the global financial system.

“It seems the Trump administration understands only swear words, and needs some shocks to understand the new meaning of power in the world,” said Iranian armed forces spokesman Masoud Jazayeri, who is also a Revolutionary Guards commander.

“The Americans have driven the world crazy by their behavior. It is time to teach them a new lesson.”

Several Iranian newspapers ran the same photo on the front page on Tuesday: the urbane, U.S.-educated Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif laughing and hugging the commander of the IRGC, Major-General Mohammad Ali Jafari, in a striking display of unity between the two main factions of Iran’s leadership.

“We have a similar stance but different ways of saying it,” the papers quoted Jafari as saying.

Iran’s moderate president Hassan Rouhani won reelection less than five months ago after a campaign in which he called for better ties with the outside world and reform at home, openly criticizing the influence of the IRGC, which he accused of backing his hard-line opponent. But the moderates and hard-liners tend to rally together in public when threatened from abroad.

“The Americans are too small to be able to harm the Revolutionary Guards,” Ali Akbar Velayati, the top adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was quoted as saying by ISNA. “We have all options on the table. Whatever they do, we will take reciprocal measures.”

U.S. sanctions on the IRGC could affect conflicts in Iraq and Syria, where Tehran and Washington both support warring parties that oppose the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militant group.

Russia, Iran’s ally that is also fighting ISIL in Iraq and Syria, said Tuesday that it does not consider the Revolutionary Guards to be a terrorist organization.

The Iranian nuclear deal, backed by European countries, China and Russia, lifted broad international sanctions over Iran’s nuclear program that had been tightened during the Obama years and had caused severe damage to Iran’s economy.

But Washington still maintains separate unilateral sanctions over Tehran’s ballistic missile program and over allegations that it supports terrorism. The lingering U.S. sanctions have slowed Iran’s reemergence into the world economy, making global banks reluctant to take on business with Iranian firms despite the nuclear deal.Speech

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