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Presidential Hopefuls Bound by Nuclear Pact

Presidential hopefuls attend a televised debate in Tehran on May 5.  Presidential hopefuls attend a televised debate in Tehran on May 5.

Despite conflicting views on the dividends of the July 2015 nuclear deal, the six hopefuls running for the May 19 presidential marathon say they are committed to upholding the international pact.

The deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, came into force in January 2016 to lift international sanctions in exchange for temporary constraints on Tehran's nuclear activities.

The statements of support came on Friday during the second of three televised election debates, attended by incumbent President Hassan Rouhani, 69, and two high-profile challengers, Ebrahim Raeisi, 57, and Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, 56.

Other attendees were reformist Vice President Es'haq Jahangiri, 60, and ex-vice president Mostafa Hashemitaba, 71, and former culture minister Mostafa Mirsalim, 70, a principlist.

Raeisi, the custodian of the holy shrine of Imam Reza [PBUH], and Qalibaf, the mayor of Tehran, are both principlists supported by the Popular Front of Islamic Revolution Forces.

Despite endorsing the deal as a "national document", Raeisi and Qalibaf lamented its failure to usher in economic prosperity.

Raeisi said the pact has not resulted in tangible benefits for Iranians, putting the blame on the government's performance.

The principlist contender invoked Rouhani's words during his 2013 presidential campaign and after being elected to office regarding Iran's need for settling its years-long nuclear dispute with world powers, saying they conveyed "very bad messages" to the other side.

"The government announced its treasury is empty ... [and] without a deal, our [nuclear] facilities would be attacked ... It's like a commander who shouts in the middle of the battlefield that I have no forces," he said.

Raeisi said Rouhani's unacceptable behavior has emboldened the US to not give Iran a fair treatment under the deal.

"If [Americans] believe they face a strong government that would by no means budge on the rights of the Iranian nation, the government can cash the check [JCPOA]," he said.

Qalibaf, the former police chief who came second to Rouhani four years ago, echoed Raeisi's stance that the deal has failed to improve the lives of Iranians.

"When you ask the people whether JCPOA has improved their life, they say no. It has turned into a gate for imports from Europe," he said.

Putting up a defense of his signature achievement, Rouhani said the deal has lifted only nuclear-related sanctions, not all sanctions, and it has enabled the government to bring foreign investment and technology to the country.

"If there was no JCPOA, we would be exporting 200,000 barrels of oil per day instead of 2 million," he said, adding that Iran's nuclear industry is in a much better shape than before the deal.

The third and last debate will be televised live next Friday. First introduced in the runup to the 2009 presidential poll, the live debates can easily tilt public opinions toward or against a candidate.

 

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