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The JCPOA Helps Iran's Elites and Hurts Rouhani

Why That's a Problem

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani attends a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier by the Kremlin walls in Moscow, Russia March 28, 2017. Maxim Shemetov / Reuters

These are hard times for Hassan Rouhani. With fewer than two months to go until Iran’s next national election, currently scheduled to take place on May 19, the long knives are out for the soft-spoken cleric who serves as the country’s president. 

Recent weeks have seen mounting criticism of Rouhani’s stewardship of the Iranian government and the emergence of new challengers seeking to grab the political reins from the Islamic Republic’s embattled incumbent. Both trends have also been blessed by Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is pushing an increasingly populist—and protectionist—political line.

WHAT PEACE DIVIDEND?

At the core of Iran’s souring national mood lies the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the nuclear deal signed between Iran and the P5+1 powers (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) back in July 2015.

A model of Simorgh satellite-carrier rocket during a ceremony marking the 37th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, in Tehran February 11, 2016.
A model of Simorgh satellite-carrier rocket during a ceremony marking the 37th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, in Tehran February 11, 2016. Raheb Homavandi / Reuters
In his successful bid for the Iranian presidency in 2013,

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