A coterie of Iran’s hard-line Shiite Muslim clerics and Revolutionary Guards commanders is usually vocal on the subject of the Iranian nuclear program, loudly proclaiming the country’s right to pursue its interests and angrily denouncing the United States.
But as the United States and Iran prepare to restart nuclear talks this week, the hard-liners have been keeping a low profile.
“They have been remarkably quiet,” said Nader Karimi Joni, a former member of the Revolutionary Guards and the Basij, a volunteer paramilitary group.
Their silence is a result of state policies intended by Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to seriously try to find a solution through negotiations. Khamenei has largely supported the nuclear talks and the Iranian negotiators, whom he has called “good and caring people, who work for the country.”
The restraint by the hard-liners also reflects a general satisfaction, analysts say, with the direction of the talks and the successes Iran is enjoying, extending and deepening its influence in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen.
As a result, state-condoned demonstrations against the talks have fizzled out, as have meetings among hard-line politicians and student groups who said they had been worried about a potential deal.
Billboards in Tehran once depicting U.S. negotiators as commandos and devils have been replaced by slogans supporting the international outreach of the government of President Hassan Rouhani, a moderate who won office promising to complete the nuclear deal and end crippling economic sanctions.
Two weeks ago, the Committee to Protect Iranian Interests, the main group opposing the talks, was again out on the streets, but this time protesting the government’s economic policies. The group’s spokesman, Alireza Mataji, refused to explain why he and his supporters were no longer publicly opposing a deal.
Those changes are more likely a simple buckling under to orders from above, said Joni, who is now a journalist.
In a speech on Saturday, Khamenei underlined that his country’s establishment was in favor of talks. He rejected President Barack Obama’s remarks that some in Iran were against resolving the nuclear issue through diplomacy.
“This is a lie,” he said. “No one in Iran is against the resolution of the nuclear issue through negotiations. What the Iranian nation does not want to agree with is the impositions and bullying of the Americans.”
Although encouraging the negotiations, Khamenei has accused the United States of being untrustworthy, those who are familiar with his views say, so he can blame Washington if the talks fail.
Until that moment, however, internal dissent will not be tolerated, as it will only undermine the country’s negotiating position, Iranian analysts and hard-liners say.
“We will have no letters or other nonsense that we are witnessing in the United States,” Hamid Reza Taraghi, a political strategist with close ties to Khamenei, said, referring to a letter 47 Republican senators sent to Iran’s leaders warning them that any deal on their nuclear program could be reversed by Obama’s successor. “Iran speaks with one voice.”
Meanwhile, a letter released Monday and signed by 367 U.S. House members to President Barack Obama highlights what they describe as “grave and urgent issues” relating to negotiations to rein in Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
The March 20 letter said that in any agreement, “Congress must be convinced that its terms foreclose any pathway to a bomb, and only then will Congress be able to consider permanent sanctions relief,”
It was signed by 84 percent of House members, including Republicans such as Speaker John Boehner and Democrats such as minority whip Steny Hoyer.
The nuclear negotiations aside, Taraghi said, Iran’s hard-liners have many other things to be pleased about, like the string of Shiite successes in the Middle East — Iraq, Syria and Yemen.
“Deal or no deal, we are at new peaks of our power,” he said.
Bloomberg News contributed to this report.