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February 5, 2016

Iranians Support Nuclear Deal, but Enthusiasms Tempered Ahead of Election

article-2341635-1A51B2C6000005DC-569_634x414Washington, DC – With only three weeks remaining before Majlis and Assembly of Experts elections, a poll conducted by the Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland provides insights into the views and attitudes of the Iranian public. Speaking at the Wilson Center this week, research scholar Ebrahim Mohseni said that Rouhani’s policies on foreign affairs and the economy could possibly affect the outcome of the upcoming polls, and even provide indications for what will happen in the Presidential elections in two years.

According to a new survey of the Iranian public conducted by the University of Maryland, the nuclear deal still has strong support among Iranian voters—though the level of enthusiasm is not as great as it once was. Seven out of ten approve of the nuclear deal, but the proportion who say they “strongly approve” has decreased from 43 percent to 30 percent since the previous survey in August 2015.

Mohseni explains the change as the result of early inaccurate assumptions about the nuclear deal. For an example, in the August 2015 survey, around 59 percent of Iranians believed that all United States sanctions would be lifted—when in fact the U.S. trade embargo remains almost entirely in place. About 64 percent indicated at the time that the IAEA could not inspect military sites, whereas the agreement does permit such inspections under certain conditions.

Still, the overall level of support for the deal remains steady, though Mohseni warned this could lead to further disappointment. “Iranians have high, and perhaps unrealistic expectations about the positive effects of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.” For example, about 60 percent believe that “a lot more foreign companies” would make investments in Iran a year after the deal and that the unemployment rate would significantly decrease.

At the same time, a majority of Iranians believe that the United States will not live up to its obligations under the nuclear agreement. Mohseni argues that actions such as recent sanctions designations connected to Iran’s missile program and changes to the Visa Waiver Program targeting Iranian dual nationals in Europe are perceived in Iran as attempts to defy the agreement.

As for the future, many Iranians are still skeptical that the Iran–US relations will improve. Mohseni explained that the negative rhetoric from some U.S. Presidential candidates “about how they are going to deal with the Iran deal and how they are going to deal with Iran is widely broadcast, so it has its effects”.

According to the survey, Iranians are closely following the conflict with ISIS and a majority of Iranians support providing resources to Kurdish and Shiite groups in order to fight the group. Mohseni said this demonstrates that Iranians do not perceive the conflict as a sectarian one between Shia and Sunni Muslims, given that the Kurds are Sunni. “Everyone knows [ISIS] and everyone hates, detest and fears them”, he explained. Consequently, 50 percent would approve of Iran collaborating with the United States to counter ISIS and 80 percent would approve of Iran participating in multilateral negotiations to stop the conflict in Syria.

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