Less than a month after a hardline member of Iran’s Parliament compared the historic handshake between President Barack Obama and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif to signing a pact with the devil, several other members of Parliament (MP) in the Islamic Republic have threatened to execute Zarif and the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization (AEO), Ali Akbar Salehi, over their nuclear deal with the Western world.
“Someone has come and tell us [sic] ‘We will kill you and bury you under cement at the Arak reactor,'” Salehi reportedly told the Iranian Parliament on Sunday. According to Kurdish news outlet Rudaw, the Iranian Student News Agency (ISNA) reported that the threats were made by Ruhollah Hosseinian, who is staunchly opposed to Iran’s nuclear deal with the West.
The heavy water nuclear facility at Arak is located underground in central Iran. Tehran claims it is being used for peaceful research purposes.
Zarif and Salehi have reportedly received similar threats in the past.
Tensions flared inside Parliament during a debate on Sunday as hardliners and moderates butted heads and sharp attacks were unleashed on Salehi and Zarif when the two officials presented a proposal for how the government should implement the terms of the Joint Comprehension Plan of Action (JCPOA), better known as the Iran nuclear deal.
On Tuesday, the Iranian Parliament passed the nuclear deal bill with 161 votes in favor, 59 against, and 13 abstentions, according to a report by Reuters. The passage was seen as a victory for “moderate” President Hassan Rouhani.
Leading up to passage of the bill, a report by IRNA news agency revealed that three MPs repeatedly interrupted Salehi’s speech and tried to bring him down from the podium, but were restrained by other MPs.
“Most policymakers expect this to pass quite quickly and smoothly. The Guardian Council’s framework is such that, if the JCPOA has reached this stage, it is highly unlikely to derail it now,” Ellie Geranmayeh, a policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, told Reuters. She suggested Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei would likely also get behind it as a result.
Other well-known hardliners in Iran’s Parliament include Morteza Agha-Tehrani, Hamid Rasaei, Mahdi Kouchakzadeh, and Alireza Zakani.
Iranian hardline MP Ali Asghar Zarei presented an emotional display, crying upon the bill’s passage and referring to those who voted in favor of the JCPOA as “shameful” (bee-aberou in Persian). A video of his breakdown was posted to Facebook.
Some of the comments from Iranians posted in Farsi and translated into English included remarks such as, “These are tears of anger and hatred that they have for their nation.” Meanwhile, another user accused Zarei of crying “crocodile tears.”
Under the terms of the JCPOA, Iran is due to start implementing the deal between October 18 or 19, known as Adoption Day. Upon implementation, Iranian technicians will be required to decommission thousands of centrifuges that refine uranium, fill the Arak heavy water reactor with concrete, and ship most of Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium abroad. Reportedly, the original threat by MP Hosseinian, saying he intends to bury MP Salehi under Arak’s soon-to-be cement-filled reactor, stemmed from this.