Iran Dailies Reflect Distrust, Cautious Optimism About US Return to JCPOA
A glance at leading Iranian newspaper frontpage headlines reveals the nuances in perceptions of the US position regarding how Washington and Tehran should exit from the current diplomatic impasse and return to the 2015 nuclear deal, as a baseline for further agreements.
Hardline papers such as the IRGC-linked Javan, the ultraconservative mouthpiece Vatan-e Emrooz and those linked to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's office, such as the Kayhan and Khorasan, are adamant that Washington should do more to convince Iran about its goodwill.
They say that US move to agree to take part in a meeting with the Iranian side, stepping back from activating the UN trigger mechanism and lifting restrictions on movements of Iranian diplomats in New York are not enough. Like Khamenei they demand the lifting of all US sanctions as well as a few months’ time to "verify" America's goodwill.
Verification would mean time for Iran, with President Hassan Rouhani’s term ending in June and hardliners capturing the presidency, as generally expected. Media in Iran have been full of references to who should get the credit for ending US sanctions, which means by the time hardliners are in power they would reap the credit and the political and economic benefits.
Javan has charged that "Biden has refused to lift the sanctions on Iran and instead suggested holding meetings with Iranian officials." Javan retorted: "First lifting the sanctions and only then holding meetings."
Khorassan has the biggest frontpage headline with a picture of Biden: "Only words!" The headline reminds of Khamenei's statement last week when he said Iran needs only action not words from the United States.
The Kayhan suggested in its headline: "Don't be deceived! Lifting all the sanctions is the precondition for the US return to the nuclear deal." And Vatan-e Emrooz reminded that "In his address to the Munich Security Conference on Friday, Biden did not speak about returning to the JCPOA or about lifting the sanctions. Immediately after voicing the United States' interest in returning to the P5+1, he accused Iran of destabilizing the region."
Among the proreform papers, reactions to the Biden administration’s position were a mixture of doubts, cautious agreement and calculated disagreement. On its front page Ebtekar wrote about "The ambiguity in nuclear diplomacy," and stressed that Biden's speech did not bring about a breakthrough on the nuclear agreement."
In its factual report about diplomatic developments, reformist Aftab-e Yazd said in its headline: "Biden is following a step-by-step policy." Another proreform paper Arman-e Melli ran the headline "Biden's return" and wrote that the US President has promised to return to all international agreements his predecessor left.
A more optimistic view was expressed on the frontpage of the economic daily Asia: "Biden's green light to Iran." However, the daily tried to balance its optimistic headline with a pessimistic opinion piece by an Iranian American journalist in the US, Nahal Tousi in Politico, with a warning headline: "Do not be deceived!"
Of the two leading reformist papers Etemad and Sharq, the former had the smallest headline on the frontpage highlighting a comment made by Foreign Minister Zarif. Etemad called Biden's stances "symbolic" and quoted Zarif as saying that they are "Not enough!"
Sharq, on the other hand, was more optimistic as its main headline read: "Countdown for returning to the JCPOA;" a position in line with another reformist daily Aftab-e Yazd.
The Rouhani administration's mouthpiece, Iran newspaper wrote about "a new momentum in developments regarding the JCPOA following Tehran's ultimatum," and opined that the United States "has withdrawn from the failed project of activating the trigger mechanism" of the JCPOA.
One of the most interesting headlines in Tehran's Saturday papers appeared on the frontpage of a hardliner daily that generally supports Rouhani while usually criticizing his economic policies. The Jomhouri Eslami daily quoted Biden as saying at the Munich Conference: "We are ready to interact with Iran within the frameworks of the P5+1." The daily welcomed Biden's statement highlighting its relative editorial independence.