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Trump Offensive Leaves Iran’s Hardliners Ascendant as Poll Nears

  • Moderates are in retreat as U.S. sanctions threaten 2015 deal
  • Protests last month underscored Rouhani’s perilous position
Ayatollah Ali Khamanei, right, in Tehran, Iran on Nov. 17.
Ayatollah Ali Khamanei, right, in Tehran, Iran on Nov. 17.Source: Iranian Supreme Leader Press Office/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
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After a dozen years as speaker of Iran’s parliament, half of them allied with President Hassan Rouhani as he reached out to the West, Ali Larijani is bowing out.

It’s been a tumultuous reign, book-ended by devastating U.S. sanction regimes. But his decision not to contest Feb. 21 national assembly elections is more than a hard-earned career change. Those who backed Rouhani when Iran negotiated the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, including the influential 62-year-old Larijani, stand fatally weakened as the accord crumbles under President Donald Trump’s economic offensive and Tehran’s tit-for-tat reprisals.