Saturday, October 20, 2007

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Iran to rest of world: "talk to the hand"

The New York Times' Nazila Fathi and Michael Slackman report on a worrisome development in Iran:

Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, viewed by the West as a moderating influence in Tehran, resigned before crucial talks with Europe this week over Iran’s nuclear program, signaling that officials here may have closed the door to any possible negotiated settlement in its standoff with the West.

The negotiator, Ali Larijani, was among a small group of officials who, while supportive of Iran’s nuclear ambitions, have tried to press back against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his more radical approach, which has left Iran increasingly isolated.

But with Mr. Larijani’s resignation, it appears that the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say in all matters of state, has fallen in squarely behind the president. Mr. Ahmadinejad represents the most radical face of the leadership, which has defied the United Nations Security Council twice and sped up the process of uranium enrichment. Mr. Larijani had been appointed by and reported to the supreme leader.

Now, with oil prices high enough to help Iran mitigate the effects of any new sanctions, and with Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, having made a historic trip to Tehran last week, it appears that the top leadership has settled on a single, radical track.

“This is definitely a major political change, and not necessarily a positive one,” said Saeed Leylaz, a political analyst and former government official. “It might mean that Iran is speeding up its activities and is becoming more radical, especially now with higher oil prices.”

UPDATE: Farideh Farhi provides some worrisome analysis over at the ICGA blog:
The most unsettling aspect of this move from the insiders point of view may be questions raised regarding Ayatollah Khamenei's control over the nuclear file. Both of the possibilities - that he has either lost control or decided to throw his support for the most radical elements in the Iranian political system - are bound to unsettle the domestic political scene. For him, to be seen as being in one corner with Ahmadinejad against all the other heavyweights of Iranian politics, including Hashemi Rafsanjani, Khatami, Karrubi, Rezaie, Qalibaf, and now Larijani, is a predicament he has tried hard to avoid at least publicly.

posted by Dan on 10.20.07 at 04:14 PM


This is article is biased against Iran. Why is it a "radical track" for Iran to demand it be held to the IAEA's own standards?

Let me just point out what article IV of the NPT says:
" Article IV

1. Nothing in this Treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination and in conformity with Articles I and II of this Treaty.

2. All the Parties to the Treaty undertake to facilitate, and have the right to participate in, the fullest possible exchange of equipment, materials and scientific and technological information for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Parties to the Treaty in a position to do so shall also co-operate in contributing alone or together with other States or international organizations to the further development of the applications of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, especially in the territories of non-nuclear-weapon States Party to the Treaty, with due consideration for the needs of the developing areas of the world."

It is Bush and Israel and Europe who are the radicals. they are threatening Iran with no evidence of wrong doing, they are breaking the UN Charter by making threats of war (and WWIII even) at the possibility of Iran having the KNOWLEDGE to do nuclear work. This article, like almost all the others in the American media comes to the table with the assumption that Iran is wrong, even though there is absolutely no evidence of that. It is the same garbage "journalism" that lead the USA to attack Iraq without asking serious questions... Pathetic!

posted by: Joe M. on 10.20.07 at 04:14 PM [permalink]

This cannot be unrelated to the Putin visit, and that does not bode well.

posted by: foolishmortal on 10.20.07 at 04:14 PM [permalink]

We shouldn't get carried away by what is, at least on the surface, bad news.

Remember that the decisive consideration is not how Iran's political leadership feels about developing nuclear weapons, but how close the country is to actually being able to do this. We do not at this point have any good reason to think an Iranian bomb is imminent, which means we have time to maneuver to head off a development no one outside Iran really wants to see.

There isn't any question that very high oil prices increase the confidence of the Iranian leadership, and must decrease the leverage of those Iranian political figures who argue that broader engagement with the global economy is key to their country's future. But there is nothing we can do about that, at least not directly or in the immediate future.

posted by: Zathras on 10.20.07 at 04:14 PM [permalink]

High oil prices only help Iran if they are able to sell oil. If we are willing to settle for really high oil prices, in a pinch we can put a stop to that in a number of ways. I don't think we're at that pinch yet.

posted by: srp on 10.20.07 at 04:14 PM [permalink]

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