Iranian hardliners use popular show “Gando” to sabotage nuclear negotiations

It’s not the starring role of Claire Danes, it’s not about Al Qaeda, and it won’t win any Emmys. But “Gando”, a popular show like “Homeland”, Storm swept through Iran, Is having an impact far beyond the small screen, and transforming into a political force in real life, may disrupt the sensitive nuclear negotiations between Tehran and the West.

This is exactly what its producers want. This spy thriller not only shows a spectacular car chase and a tortuous storyline, it is also the sophisticated tricks of Iranian hardliners eager to sabotage nuclear negotiations, turning mass entertainment into a weapon for them to fight against the country’s moderates.

The series starring some celebrities in the Iranian entertainment industry, it became famous when it debuted in 2019, and received the highest ratings ever on Iranian National Television. Season 2 was launched in March last year, and appeared to be to help disrupt Iran’s nuclear negotiations. Start to gain momentum.

The show has now become a big rascal in public discourse here, synonymous with ultra-conservatives, who praised it as a patriotic revelation, while reformers condemned it as slanderous propaganda. As the nuclear talks may gain new attention after being put on hold for several months, “Ganduo” has just been rebroadcast, regardless of whether it is a coincidence or not.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei attended the meeting in Tehran in April.

(Office of the Supreme Leader of Iran)

The series revolves around realistic dialogue between Tehran and world powers, including the United States and the United Kingdom, to revive its dying 2015 nuclear agreement. But as a Trojan horse for political misinformation activities, “Gando” weaves its own network of conspiracy and dark operations.

The cast includes American and British agents whose infiltration attempts have been repeatedly frustrated; a stubborn Iranian intelligence officer named Mohammad who was bombed by terrorists in the finale of the most recent season; and Washington Post reporter Jason Reza An undisguised version of Ann (Jason Rezaian) Spent 18 months in an Iranian prison Until he was released in 2016.

More rudely, the Iranian nuclear negotiator on the show is portrayed as a running dog of the West at best, or, at worst, a traitor to subvert the Islamic Republic. In a particularly controversial incident, when Mohammed was investigating a Western plan to create discord between Sunni and Shiites, he discovered secret connections between some negotiators and British intelligence services.

“Chief, we need to deal with a spy on the negotiating team,” Mohamed, played by the famous actor Vahid Rahbani, warned his boss.

Critics insist that there is zero evidence that any member of the real negotiating team is a spy. They criticized “Gando” as a smear campaign against the reformist government. Former President Hassan Rouhani And tried to discredit his attempt to reconcile with the West.

This has not stopped a group of 160 hard-line lawmakers who signed a letter supporting the show and saying it accurately described the incident when Rouhani tried to revive the nuclear deal earlier this year.

“If what we see in the’Gando’ thriller is true, why doesn’t the judiciary sue the Rouhani government’s negotiating team?” The ultra-conservative MP Javad Nikbin recently made a request.

This is where “Gando” confuses facts and fiction in the minds of many viewers, so that in the first season, Iran’s then foreign minister angrily-and repeatedly-dismissed it as “a bunch of lies.” . minister, Mohamed Javad Zarif, And even wrote to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei complaining about the harmful effects of the show.

The production cost of the project is estimated at 5 million U.S. dollars, and the budget calculated by local standards is large, including location shooting in Turkey and China.It is produced by a strong affiliate of Iran’s National Television and includes Iran’s proud Revolutionary Guard military unit.

“Gando”-its name refers to a small native crocodile that cunningly stalks its prey-constantly reiterates the argument that contact with the West is tantamount to surrender, just like any retreat in Iran’s pursuit of nuclear capabilities.Blame on Bad economic situationChina, paralyzed by sanctions led by the United States, has close relations with hostile foreign forces and their domestic lackeys.

Mohamed Javad Zarif, former Iranian Foreign Minister

The former Iranian Foreign Minister Mohamed Javad Zarif has repeatedly condemned the popular TV show “Gando” as “a bunch of lies.”

(Ibrahim Nowruz/Associated Press)

“People fully understand that the economic difficulties are due to the betrayal of a small number of pro-Western diplomats and politicians, who touted the idea of ​​negotiating with the West is the only way to solve national problems,” Mohammed declared in one episode.

Despite the efforts of “Gando” supporters and Tehran’s often aggressive remarks, nuclear negotiations still existed, even if they were weak-unlike Muhammad, who died in a fireball at the end of season 2.The Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs was portrayed as a lair of disjointed elites on the show and did not completely eliminate its more moderate figures, even in Hardline President Ebrahim Raisi was elected in June, Who succeeded Rouhani.

Earlier this month, Tehran’s chief negotiator announced that he would meet with representatives of other nuclear agreement signatories, including the United States, in Vienna on November 29. Khamenei’s approval.

“In the past few years, hardliners have spared no effort to influence negotiations, but it is still The supreme leader has the final say,” Reformed politician and former Deputy Interior Minister Mostafa Tajzadeh said in an interview. “Despite various attempts by hardliners, I believe that the Biden administration is still in control of breaking The initiative of the deadlock. “

Not all Iranians are attracted by the fabrication of “Gando.”

Reza Parasteh, a 40-year-old IT engineer in Tehran, said that the opening plot of the first season of the show is good in terms of plot and production value. But then the show turned into an incredibly harsh promotional film.

“Season 2 is a story of patching up roosters and bulls, and very politically attacking possible deals from the outgoing government,” Parasteh said.

Nevertheless, “Gando” is still firmly rooted in the minds of the public, and continues to appear in public discourse even after the second season is broadcast.The tag “Gando” is often popular in Persian on Twitter because the origin of the event seems to be very secretive, such as Cyber ​​attack at the end of October This has shut down gas stations across the country, leading to long queues of cars and angry motorists. No one claimed responsibility for the incident.

“Let’s call on Muhammad and his team on’Gando’ to thwart the conspiracy behind the gas station hacking,” a militant under a pseudonym sarcastically tweeted.

The stark political stance of the show, especially in the latest season, has aroused strong opposition from critics, not only against the series, but also against some of its stars. An actor complained that because of her appearance in “Gando”, the independent producer rejected her role in the project.

Another actor and pioneer of Iranian film and theater, Dariush Farhang, found himself accused of having earned his reputation as an intelligence director in exchange for the money he made on the show. After the photos of Farhang out shopping in Toronto were posted online, some of his compatriots responded sternly: “You paint the West as a dirty place, but you shop there.”

The producers of “Gando’s” promised more seasons of their popular series.

Its fans are undoubtedly very excited. Its critics are still angry at what they think is a sinister manipulation by a faction of Iranian society to keep the public on its side.

“Its purpose is to impose the will of the few on the majority… using drama and fiction,” said senior journalist Mehrdad Khadir. “This is definitely not a work of art. On the contrary, it attempts to influence the future of those who see it as entertainment.”

Khazani is a special correspondent based in Tehran. Special writer Chu is based in London.

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