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Iranian Split Seeps Into Atomic Policy (WSJ) WALL STREET JOURNAL) By FARNAZ FASSIHI 04/12/12)Source: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303624004577338173634528362.html?KEYWORDS=Israel WALL STREET JOURNAL WALL STREET JOURNAL Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
Internal divisions in Iran´s government are hampering its effort to form a united front in the coming negotiations with the West over the Islamic Republic´s nuclear program.

Analysts say that could make it harder for Iran´s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to strike a compromise to avoid the appearance of weakness, as the West demands concessions to the program.

The talks between Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany are scheduled to take place in Istanbul on Saturday. Iran suspended the talks in 2009 after massive demonstrations against the government for alleged voter fraud in the presidential elections.

The Western nations are expected to demand that Iran suspend or significantly reduce its uranium enrichment activities and give U.N. inspectors unlimited access to its nuclear sites.

"The international community is united, Iran is isolated, the way to change that dynamic is for Iran to live up to its international obligations and to forsake its nuclear weapons ambitions," White House press secretary Jay Carney said on Wednesday.

Iran contends its nuclear program is for peacetime energy uses while some Western countries suspect it is working to build a nuclear bomb and has imposed increasingly tough economic sanctions on the country. The standoff also has sparked fears of a possible military action by Israel on Iran´s nuclear facilities if negotiations fail.

In its negotiations with the West, Iran has long followed a strategy that its officials call the "grand policy" bargaining, meaning the country puts up a united front against the West and decisions on its nuclear program rise above petty domestic rivalries.

That tactic appears to be faltering only days ahead of the talks. Rivalries between conservative Iranian factions loyal to Mr. Khamenei or to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad appear to be influencing nuclear policy.

"I am doubtful that there are creative technical resolutions to the nuclear conflict absent a broader [domestic Iranian] political accommodation," said Karim Sadjadpour, Iran expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Iran´s officials have made contradictory public comments on whether the country is willing to compromise or stand its ground. Mr. Khamenei has the last word in all state matters but analysts say that percolating domestic divisions could sway his stance.

"If Mr. Khamenei feels the internal divisions are getting serious he will not give in because he sees concession as a sign of weakness and will only do it if Iran is strong from the inside," said an adviser to Iran´s foreign ministry in Tehran.

Iran´s foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, and top nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, have both suggested they hoped Iran and the West would be able to gain each other´s trust and move forward in Istanbul. They are seen to be in Mr. Khamenei´s camp.

"Iran´s representatives will bring innovative ideas to the negotiating table and we hope that the five plus one countries have a productive outlook as well," Mr. Jalili said Wednesday at a news conference in Tehran.

And on Monday, the head of Iran´s Atomic Energy Organization, Fereydoon Abbasi-Davani, raised the possibility that Iran could suspend enrichment to the 20% level of purity if its needs were met.

But Mr. Ahmadinejad, facing a fresh impeachment threat this week from the parliament, took a defiant tone in a speech on Wednesday in the Persian Gulf island of Qeshm.

"Iran will not back down even an iota from its nuclear rights, you [Western countries] will be forced to change your attitude toward Iran," said Mr. Ahmadinejad, according to Iran´s official news agency. Separately, the United Arab Emirates criticized Mr. Ahmadinejad´s visit to Qeshm, which both countries have claimed since the 1970s.

Parliament overwhelmingly passed a measure Tuesday that would pave the way for an easy and quick process to impeach Mr. Ahmadinejad. Lawmakers criticized his government´s annual budget plan, the second phase of implementing subsidy cuts and withdrawing money from government bank accounts.

The change of regulation for impeachment was put to vote on Wednesday but it didn´t gain enough votes, according to official Iranian media reports. The battle is hardly over.

In another jab at Mr. Ahamdinejad, parliament is scheduled to impeach one of his close allies on Sunday, minister of labor Abdolreza Sheikholeslami over appointing the former Tehran prosecutor in chief to the head of social security services. Saeed Mortazavi, the ex- prosecutor, is accused in the 2009 prison scandal of Kahrizak where young men and women arrested at protests were tortured, raped and killed.

The public´s support, a backbone of Iran´s defense of its nuclear program, has also become more divided as tough sanctions, including European Union´s oil embargo, have crippled the economy.

The prices for basic goods such as bread, rice, dairy and meat are increasing on a daily basis, according to reports in domestic newspapers and interviews with Iranians inside Iran. Iranian newspapers on Wednesday warned that the price of gasoline, now subsidized, might soon increase by 20% as the government faces a budget crisis.

A popular saying in Iran these days among many ordinary Iranians is that "Mr. Khamenei should drink the jar of poison and compromise with the West." The phrase refers to a famous saying by the founder of Iran´s revolution Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini who said he had drank the jar of poison and agreed to a cease-fire with Iraq in 1988. (Copyright © Dow Jones & Company, Inc.) 04/12/12)

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