Iranian “Hardliners” Push for “Hard Revenge” if a Nuclear Deal Is Not Reached


As the Iran nuclear talks in Vienna drag on, signs indicate that the country’s “hardliners” want to abandon the current indirect talks with Washington that could lead to the revival of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The United States left the agreement in 2018, and its military forces killed Iran’s Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani in Iraq in early January 2020. Since then, the “hardliners” want to take  “hard revenge”  against the United States.

This so-called “hard revenge” seems unlikely to happen  as long as Iran engages in the nuclear talks, especially if Washington insists that the country end its extraterritorial paramilitary operations which Soleimani led in a number of Middle Eastern countries.  Washington hopes that with Soleimani gone, Tehran will scale back  the activities of its militias in the region.

Iran’s “hardliners” are pushing the country’s nuclear negotiators not to give in to Washington’s pressures. Aligned  with Iran’s Supreme Leader and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the “hardliners” want to keep their options open if the nuclear talks fail. Without a nuclear deal, they hope that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)  will  execute the  “hard revenge” sooner than later.

Conveniently, they also choose to ignore a few obvious facts. Reports  indicate that after Soleimani’s death, fearing heavy retaliation, the IRGC and Quds  Force stood down instead of seeking  “hard revenge”  against the United States.

What transpired was that in exchange for pre-announced targeted strikes led by Iran on US military bases in Iraq, Washington allowed Tehran to save face if it committed to building a stronger nuclear deal.  However, Iran’s  “hardliners”  resisted further attempts by the then  President Hassan Rouhani to craft a new deal with Washington. Iran’s “hardline” Parliament took the extra step of passing a three-tier “hard revenge emergency bill” to sabotage the nuclear negotiations.

Since then, things have changed for the worse for Iran.  The country now desperately needs a nuclear deal that will lift US-led sanctions targeting the Iranian economy. Prudently, Tehran promises to deliver its “hard revenge” by targeting only  individuals close to the Trump circle who ordered Soleimani’s killing. Soleimani was killed when President Trump was in office.

Iran’s new ultra-conservative President Ebrahim Raisi  has said that the former US president must face trial; otherwise, he will face revenge. Khamenei’s website released an  animated video depicting a drone attack  targeting  Trump. The IRGC Major General Hossein Salami  said Iran’s “hard revenge” was  partly realized after  it targeted US military bases in Iraq. He insists that  the second part of the country’s “hard revenge” is yet to come and involves pushing  US forces out of the region.

But news websites linked to “hardline” papers state that there is nothing new in  the aforementioned remarks  as they reflect previous Iranian positions. Instead, they insist that  Iran’s “hard revenge” should entail the destruction of US power, and revive an “Islamic civilization” led by Iran. They condemned government officials for being passive in the nuclear talks, and for putting up with the “Great Satan,” in reference to the United States. Finally, they believe that Ayatollah Khamenei is on their side. The news outlet Fars News Agency, considered close to Khamenei, is openly siding with the “hardliners” regarding seeking “hard revenge” for Soleimani’s killing.

To appease these critics who also strongly oppose a thaw in US-Iran ties, Raisi’s government is promising to push those US leaders involved in Soleimani’s death into hiding. The IRGC is backing the Iranian president for now, and says that its so-called resistance forces, in reference to Iranian-funded proxies and paramilitary groups in the region, will certainly deliver  Tehran’s “hard revenge.”

Washington has warned Tehran of severe consequences if any Americans are attacked, after Iran sanctioned 51 individuals for their involvement in Soleimani’s killing.

Given these realities, the time and place of Iran’s final “hard revenge”  seems to increasingly rest on the progress in the  Vienna talks. Meanwhile, to keep the nuclear talks going, Tehran is trying through public statements to limit its promised “hard revenge” against Trump and his inner circle  in order to strike a sanctions-lifting deal in this interim period with the current Biden team. Although the supreme leader continues to talk tough against the United States, he in reality is trying to delay any “hard revenge” until the Vienna talks reach some conclusion. It remains to be seen what comes next, if short of a final nuclear deal, Khamenei might decide to unleash the country’s “hard revenge” to save face at home. But, given the latest developments, the “hard revenge” which Iran has been promoting for has become such a far-fetched possibility.

Editorial Team