What, if anything, does this have to do with the regime’s oft-stated winks and leers, promising a “new” relationship with the West, especially with the United States? You might wonder if the increased repression is being imposed in the anticipation of a deal, and the regime leaders want to make sure that their many domestic opponents aren’t tempted to rise up against a regime that has shown weakness in its dealings with the West.
That’s possible, but not likely. It flies in the face of what we know about the regime leaders’ reading of Obama. They don’t think they have anything to fear from him, and they expect he will accept a deal favorable to them. They expect an immediate easing of sanctions, “in exchange” for promises of good Iranian behavior in the future. They will have been reassured at the recent spectacle of the White House asking Congress not to vote any new sanctions. This demonstrates a lack of understanding, since a vigorous Congress enables our negotiators to tell the Iranians “you’d better get serious and shut down the nuclear program, or these crazy people will just pile on.”
Instead, the Iranians are playing that card, telling us “you’d better get serious and give something tangible to Rouhani, or the crazy hard-liners will make everything more dangerous.”
There’s a difference between us, after all. Obama wants a deal. The Iranians want us dead or dominated. They want to treat us the same way they treat their own.