Iranian Split Seeps Into Atomic Policy (WSJ) WALL STREET JOURNAL) By FARNAZ FASSIHI 04/12/12)
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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
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
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
"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
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
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
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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