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There was the following passage in Time magazine’s article (Nov. 15, 2015) that came under the title, “Is Iran finally ready for change?”

“The arrests of prominent Iranian Americans are widely interpreted inside Iran as hard-liner provocations, an attempt to sabotage an agenda that is about to slip from their grasp for good. The larger trends – including a youthful population eager to engage the outside world – favor the moderates. By agreeing to delink hijab from politics, Iran's rulers surrendered a central tenet of the ideology they claim to serve.

I’m not clear with the meaning of “sabotage an agenda". What does “agenda” mean here? What word can be replaced with “agenda”?

Oxford Dictionary defines the meaning of "agenda" as:

  1. A list of items to be discussed at a formal meeting.
  2. A plan of things to be done or problems to be addressed.
  3. The underlying intentions or motives of a particular person or group:

If I apply either of 2. or 3. definition, whose agenda is it in the above quote, hard-liners or their opponents' agenda – plan or intention?

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    The way I read this, the agenda in question is the agenda (2d or 3rd sense given) of the moderates, who are being favored by current trends. Part of that moderate agenda is presumably improving relations with the United States, a process that is sabotaged by arresting Iranian-American journalists. But without additional context (I am not familiar with the magazine article) this is a tentative explanation only.
    – njuffa
    Dec 31, 2015 at 23:02
  • One has to question whether the above transcript is accurate. There at least seems to be a plurality error in the first line.
    – Hot Licks
    Jan 1, 2016 at 4:08
  • Here is the accurate transcript: But stand back just a bit and the picture shifts–and appears to brighten. The arrests of prominent Iranian Americans are widely interpreted inside Iran as hard-liner provocations, an attempt to sabotage an agenda that is about to slip from their grasp for good. The larger trends–including a youthful population eager to engage the outside world–favor the moderates.
    – Hot Licks
    Jan 1, 2016 at 4:21
  • @Hot Licks. Thanks for your pointing out spelling errors. There could be some other errors I made when I was transcripting the quoted part from the original text. I corrected the beggining "arrest." Jan 1, 2016 at 6:50
  • @YoichiOishi The arrests of prominent Iranian Americans are widely interpreted inside Iran as hard-liner provocations, an attempt to sabotage an agenda that is about to slip from their grasp for good. The larger trends–including a youthful population eager to engage the outside world–favor the moderates.
    – user140086
    Jan 1, 2016 at 6:53

2 Answers 2

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The arrests of prominent Iranian Americans are widely interpreted inside Iran as hard-liner provocations

The arrests are seen as being the work of "hard liners" who want to provoke discord. (It's unclear whether this is discord between the US and Iran or discord within Iran.)

an attempt to sabotage an agenda that is about to slip from their grasp for good

The goal of this provocation is to sabotage an "agenda". The "agenda" is movement of Iran towards a more normal relationship with the rest of the world (and also, apparently, a less radical internal political structure). The hard-liners have been attempting to "tug" this "agenda" back towards the Iranian "revolution", but they are losing their grasp on it.

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In your context, agenda could be best interpreted using the No. 2 definition of Merriam-Webster:

a plan or goal that guides someone's behavior and that is often kept secret, an underlying often ideological plan or program: a political agenda

If we simplify the political agendas of the hard-liners and moderates:

Hard-liners: anti-U.S., anti-Israel who don't want to negotiate anything with them and they want to destroy Israel. The former President of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is considered a hard-liner, once said, "Israel should be wiped-off the map." The link shows 20 threats Iranian leaders made against Israel in 2013. They don't want to negotiate with the U.S. and they would like to keep pursuing the nuclear weapons program on their own despite the crippling economic sanctions.

Moderates: Still anti-U.S., anti-Israel who toned their rhetoric down in order to save the economy devastated by the sanctions. They want to pursue negotiations with the U.S. and others for their nuclear program.

Until Ahmadinejad was replaced by less hard-line President Rouhani, hard-liners had a full control (grasp) over moderates' political agenda. However, their control is not as strong as before and the moderate's agenda is about to slip from the hard-liners' control (grasp).

The agenda in the context means that of the moderates.

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    @DavidBlomstrom There was no serious negotiation with the U.S. under President Ahmadinejad and it crippled the Iran's economy. Your point of view and mine might differ, but it depends on where you focus your attention.
    – user140086
    Jan 1, 2016 at 6:55
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    @DavidBlomstrom I am sorry, but it is not a political forum and I will not respond to your comment if you don't mind. Happy new year. :-)
    – user140086
    Jan 1, 2016 at 7:38
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    @DavidBlomstrom What part of it is misleading? No serious negotiation or crippling part? What part of my statement is historically incorrect? You need to show me some evidence that can support your point first.
    – user140086
    Jan 1, 2016 at 11:26
  • @DavidBlomstrom I can produce enough evidence to support the no-serious-negotiation part and crippling part. Do you have enough evidence to support your claim other than your opinion? What is the definition of negotiation? Why do you keep talking about Cuba? Cuba needs the U.S. as much as the U.S. needs Cuba. What does it have to do with the U.S.-Iran relationship? One thing 110% sure is Iran brought the sanctions to themselves and they bowed down to the pressure.
    – user140086
    Jan 1, 2016 at 19:21
  • @DavidBlomstrom Let me ask you something. Didn't Iran suffer from the sanctions imposed by Western countries including the U.S.? Do you want me to show you inflation rate and GDP growth rate under the sanctions? What is the reason Iran suffered so much? Isn't it its own fault? I am really at a loss understanding what you are talking about, but if you have facts and evidence, just show them to me. Don't just blame the corporate media. Do you read better media than Time, FT, WJ, Washington Post, etc.? Show them to me.
    – user140086
    Jan 1, 2016 at 19:39

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