Nuclear deal could serve to strengthen power of hardliners in Iran by legitimizing latent nuclear weapons capability
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To be sure, a nuclear deal, or a de facto international recognition of Iran’s nuclear latency, might strengthen Rouhani and other relative moderates within Iran’s theocratic system in relation to hardliners. Given the current instability in the Middle East and the unfulfilled promise of the Arab uprising in many countries, there are many in Washington who would be satisfied with a moderating Iran and who would fear the potential chaos unleashed by a regime change in Iran. Still, an unstated long-term goal of many senior US officials and security analysts is not just the moderation of the current theocratic government but the ushering in of a different, more democratic system altogether. For the reasons discussed above, a latent nuclear Iran could potentially push that day off further into the future. The nuclear issue is probably not among the most important determinants of this regime’s hold on power, but, to the degree that it matters, nuclear latency could serve to extend the clerics’ reign.
There is no clear indication that passage of the nuclear deal will empower Iranian moderates and it is just as likely that the reverse -- the deal will embolden Iranian hardliners to reassert themselves. -- will be true. Additionally, the nuclear deal will shore up the repressive Iranian regime and give it new life by freeing it from the sanctions regime.