There’s been plenty of fallout here in Iran — in the media, online and in the Twittersphere — from the signing of the nuclear deal, formally known by its unwieldy technical name, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPoA.
President Hassan Rouhani described it as “a victory for the political will of the people.”
At the other end of the political spectrum, the editor of Kayhan newspaper, Hossein Shariatmadari, said it was “the conclusion of the deceit which began in Geneva 23 months ago."
Other hardliners sent warnings to the ruling establishment. "Once the JCPoA takes effect,” they said, "Iran's power of deterrence will be gone forever" and "Iran will be a de-fanged wolf who, without his biting teeth, will not be taken seriously."
A group led by the political scientist Sadegh Zibakalam, a supporter of Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, avoided picking a side, opting for disdain instead. “All nuclear activities are useless, including enrichment," he said.
On social media, the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei was widely ridiculed. Critics compared him to the character Napoleon, the chief pig in George Orwell’s Animal Farm (the novel that parodies dictatorship, and is much admired by liberals in Iran).
They cited a quote from him last year: "190,000 spinning units (uranium centrifuges) is a must” – and pointed out how he had caved by settling for about 5,000 in the final JCPoA (the maximum number of centrifuges that are allowed to carry on spinning once the deal is approved by the US Congress and the Iranian Parliament).
Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Agency tried to – if you’ll pardon the pun – put a positive spin on the final terms of the deal when he said that Iran's enrichment program was too small to be useful anyway.
“Even if we’d installed 200,000 centrifuges, we couldn’t manufacture enough enriched uranium to power the Bushehr nuclear reactor,” he said. (Bushehr is Iran’s only functioning nuclear power plant, which is Russian-built and uses Russian nuclear fuel).
“Bushehr needs 30 tons of enriched uranium a year,” Salehi went on. “We've only been producing an average of two tons annually and so far have produced a total of seven tons at our facility in Natanz."
As the debate over the deal got under way in the Iranian Parliament and officials insisted they had not given away too much in Vienna, an old Iranian anecdote did the rounds on social media.
Once upon a time, a poor couple went to see their clergyman to ask how to make the best of the fact that they had to live in a single tiny room. He told them to buy a goat to live inside with them. A short while later, they returned in distress to the clergyman. The goat had peed in their bed, they said, and chewed its way through their food. Furthermore, it stank like old socks.
The clergyman listened sympathetically, then told them to go back home, lead the goat outside and tie it to a tree in the yard.
The couple did as he said -- and discovered that life was suddenly so much improved that they lived happily ever after.
The much-vaunted JCPoA will return Iran to a state of play similar to that of the mid-2000s, before sanctions. Life for millions of people wasn’t that great then, but now that we’ve got rid of our goat, our leaders will try to convince us that life has suddenly become much better.
Long Live Animal Farm
Iranian cynics on social media shared the perfect passage in Animal Farm to illustrate the point.
In the story, a group of loyal, dogged farm animals labored mightily to build a windmill under orders from their despotic chief, a pig named Napoleon. A short time later, humans trying to take over the farm wrecked the windmill.
Boxer, the hardworking horse says:
"But they have destroyed the windmill. And we had worked on it for two years!"
Squealer, a pig that is a mouthpiece of the ruling regime replies:
"What matter? We will build another windmill. We will build six windmills if we feel like it. You do not appreciate, comrade, the mighty thing that we have done. The enemy was in occupation of this very ground that we stand upon. And now — thanks to the leadership of Comrade Napoleon — we have won every inch of it back again!"
"Then we have won back what we had before," said Boxer.
"That is our victory," said Squealer.
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Originally published on 29 July 2015