A hard-line newspaper whose editor has close ties to former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has caught the attention of Iranian social media users with a controversial top story titled, “Nuclear Holocaust.”
As part of the implementation of the November Geneva deal between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany, which began today, Jan. 20, Iran announced that it has suspended 20% enrichment of uranium and rolled back other nuclear activity in return for the release of blocked money and partial sanctions relief as the two sides negotiate a more permanent deal.
While the nuclear deal has the support of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, there are hard-liners who have been unhappy with President Hassan Rouhani’s negotiation team, believing that they have given away too many concessions too early on in the negotiations. Hard-liners have also accused the Iranian team of keeping the recently announced details of the implementation and those partially released by the White House a secret.
Vatan-e Emrooz, whose editor Mehrdad Bazrpash worked with Ahmadinejad while he was president, was appointed as an advisor for youth affairs when Ahmadinejad was mayor of Tehran, was a director of Basiji students at Sharif University and is currently a member in Parliament, has caused a great deal of controversy with its “Nuclear Holocaust” top story.
“From today, Jan. 20, the Geneva deal will be implemented,” the article began. “Despite the secrecy and the claims from the Iranian team that the technical deal for the implementation of the Geneva agreement was verbal, information published by the White House about the implementation indicates that this agreement was written, and Iran would eliminate its 20% enrichment.” The article then detailed the other nuclear activities Iran had agreed to roll back or suspend.
“Certainly today, Jan. 20, in the occupied land [Israel], will be an unforgettable day,” the article went on. “The destruction of the 20% stockpile might be the best news they have heard in years.”
The article explained that the cartoon Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented at the United Nations General Assembly and which was mocked by cartoonists “today became part of the commitments” for Iran. According to the article, “Today, Netanyahu is one of the happiest people in the world.”
“The confidence-building measures taken by Iran in reality suspended a predominant part of the nuclear facilities,” the article claimed. “When you compare the insignificance of the commitments made by the opposing side to those made by Iran, the depth of the reality becomes clear.” It asked, “Is the destruction and suspension of Iran’s nuclear facilities in return for the unblocking of a few billion dollars of our own money a victory?” Iran is to receive $4.2 billion of unblocked money in installments of nearly half a billion dollars each.
The article complained that anyone who criticized the Rouhani administration and the nuclear negotiations in the last few months was “time and time again” immediately branded an “extremist” by supporters of the administration, that accusations were made against them of being on the same side as Israel and wanting to see the deal fall through, and that anyone who believed that the Geneva agreement was a “terrifying mistake against national interests” would be confronted by supporters of the administration.
Therefore, it likened the taboo of criticizing the nuclear agreement in Iran to discussing the Holocaust in the West, in that “Talking about the realities of the Geneva agreement has a cost, and this issue is a red line for many.”
Supporters of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad often claimed that the former president wanted to dispel the “myths” of the Holocaust when he discussed it openly, while many construed his comments Holocaust denial. In the Western media, Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust comments caused such controversy that one of the most consistent questions his successor, Rouhani, was asked by reporters was whether he believed that the Holocaust took place.
In Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei, who makes the final decision on the nuclear program, has openly called for Iranian officials to support the nuclear negotiators, in essence shielding them from public criticism.