ISTANBUL — A high-stakes power struggle between Iran’s moderate president and his hard-line opponents in the judiciary appeared to escalate with the arrest of the president’s brother and the conviction of an American student for espionage this weekend — rulings that seemed timed to embarrass the Iranian leader at home and abroad.
President Hassan Rouhani, who was reelected in a landslide in May, has challenged the conservative establishment by pledging reforms in Iran and advocating diplomacy and openness toward the rest of the world. His recent criticisms of the hard-line judiciary and powerful security forces have prompted public rebukes from the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who wields ultimate authority in Iran.
The tensions come as Iran and the United States spar over the terms of a nuclear deal struck with world powers to limit Iran’s nuclear weapons program. On Monday, the White House grudgingly certified to Congress that Iran is in compliance with the deal, which was negotiated by the Obama administration and lifts major sanctions. The Trump administration has taken a much harsher stance on Iran, threatening to abandon the deal, and the Treasury Department on Tuesday announced new sanctions primarily targeting Iran’s ballistic missile program.
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