Iranian and Russian media may be looking for an honorable and PR-savvy way for Iran to withdraw from nuclear negotiations.
Various Iranian state-backed media agencies reported that Secretary of State John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif were shouting loudly enough to bother nearby hotel rooms during negotiations in Vienna this week. Rumors soon surfaced about other diplomats teasing Kerry and Zarif for the outburst.
The Iranian has reportedly gotten personal too. Countering Western diplomats’ criticism of Iranian interference in the Middle East, Zarif reportedly told them, “I should take every one of you to international courts for supporting Saddam” during Iran’s torturous 1980s war against Iraq. (RELATED: State Department Officially Calls Iran’s Forced Sex Change Surgeries ‘Confirmation’)
In another incident, Zarif and Russia’s Sergei Lavrov accused the European Union’s top diplomat of making “threats” to cancel the talks entirely. According to Russia’s state-sponsored news agency RIA Novosti, Zarif snapped back, “Never threaten an Iranian.” Lavrov added, “Nor the Russians.”
Once reports surfaced, the hashtag #NeverThreatenAnIranian sprung up on Twitter, with online Iranians of all political persuasions leaping to Zarif’s defense. (RELATED: Why Iran Banned Street Parties Ahead Of A Pending Nuke Deal)
The Iranian public has been pushing for a comprehensive nuclear deal with the U.S., while the government has always been reluctant to make concessions to America. But a convenient, sudden groundswell of national pride could just be enough to convince a deal with the Great Satan is an insult to Iranian honor.
Bloomberg News reported the official agencies’ facts uncritically, and America’s Middle East journalists and analysts spent much of Wednesday tweeting their favorite colorful anecdotes about Zarif and Kerry.
But others were skeptical of the official story. Iran-watcher John Allen Gay called Zarif’s meltdown a bit of “performative tough talk,” and noted that Iran’s official media may be setting the stage for an apparently “populist” breakdown in talks.
And Golnaz Esfandiari, who works for U.S. government media outlet Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, warned against Iranian regime news, “often used by the establishment for PR purposes.”
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