The “press conference” at which Iran’s conviction of Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian was announced reflected the indifference to even the pretense of transparency that has characterized this case from the start. When Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei, the spokesman for the judiciary, informed Iranian state television that Mr. Rezaian had been found guilty of espionage, he said he did not know details of the journalist’s sentence. It is difficult to believe that Mr. Ejei, a former minister of intelligence, lacked this information.

But let’s look at the other outrages: Jason Rezaian has been held for more than 14 months and was jailed for nearly a year before court proceedings began this summer. That “trial” was held behind closed doors. Mr. Rezaian was allowed only one meeting with his lawyer before the trial. The “evidence” for his conviction still is not public.

It is hard not to conclude that Mr. Rezaian is an unfortunate pawn by which Iran’s intelligence ministry and judiciary seek to achieve other ends.

In recent weeks Iranian officials, including the speaker of parliament and President Hassan Rouhani, had hinted at the possibility of a prisoner swap. The idea was that Mr. Rezaian, a dual American and Iranian citizen, might be exchanged for Iranians who had been sentenced in U.S. courts for breaking sanctions.

Iran’s intelligence and security services are obsessed with the idea that the U.S. is using Iranian-American journalists, political analysts, and intellectuals to bring about the kind of “velvet revolution” that toppled regimes in the former Soviet republics. The regime’s paranoia has increased since President Rouhani was elected and has attempted to ease social and political restrictions and open Iran to economic and cultural exchanges with the West. Mr. Rezaian is merely the latest victim.

On Monday, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, spoke of the “calculated soft war waged against us.” Its goal, he said, “is the dissolution of Islamic Republic. He also said that “they want to change [the Islamic Republic's] very essence.” The supreme leader has issued similar warnings since the agreement between Iranian negotiators and world powers about Tehran’s nuclear program was announced in July. President Rouhani has described the nuclear agreement as a hopeful first step in improving relations between Iran and the U.S. But what President Rouhani sees as an opportunity Ayatollah Khamenei, backed by the security agencies, sees as a threat. The supreme leader has also banned any discussions with the U.S. over regional and economic issues.

Hard-liners’ passionate opposition to any steps toward reconciliation with the U.S. was on display during the clamorous debate in Iran’s parliament over the nuclear agreement. The legislature voted to advance the deal this weekend, but a rowdy crowd of deputies surrounded the head of Iran’s atomic energy organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, who had come to explain and defend the agreement; one reportedly threatened to have Mr. Salehi killed and buried under an Iranian nuclear facility.

By finding Mr. Rezaian guilty, Iran’s security agencies and judiciary are effectively warning Mr. Rouhani. They know that this conviction will strengthen those in the U.S., including members of Congress, who are skeptical of President Barack Obama‘s outreach to Iran; and they will continue to try to obstruct Mr. Rouhani’s outreach to Washington. The conviction is a way of saying that they are not subject to Mr. Rouhani’s control. They care little if, at the moment Iran’s president and his economic team are seeking to attract foreign investment, they are sending the message that Mr. Rouhani has limited power to guarantee the safety of the foreign investors and the Iranians who do business with them. Fearful of a “soft war” and a “soft revolution,” Ayatollah Khamenei is leaving Iran’s government and security agencies working at cross purposes.

The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author.

This article was originally published on The Wall  Street Journal's Washington Wire Think Tank Blog.