Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Moscow Talks Make Tehran Jittery

Hamid Ahadi, Rooz Online:
Less than ten days are left for the UN Security Council’s deadline for Iran to stop its enrichment activities. This week there will be a meeting in Moscow with senior diplomats from the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany to discuss the latest developments in the standoff between Iran and the international community over its nuclear programs. And in this atmosphere, the government Tehran too announced its readiness for more talks on the issue. The old guards of the Islamic regime announced their concerns about a possible military confrontation. READ MORE

The head of Iran’s influential State Expediency Council that arbitrates critical differences between the parliament and the government Hashemi Rafsanjani did not rule out a military clash with the US, but warned that such an outcome would not be in the interest of America either, he said while on a trip to Saudi Arabia. He made it clear that Iran too would not benefit from such a development and that many in the region would be engulfed in it. At the same time he welcomed almost unconditional talks with the US or others on the subject.

This is a change even for Mr. Rafsanjani who had earlier said that talks with the US should not include Iran’s nuclear issue and that Iran did not wish to talk to the US about the subject.

Observers point out a similar historic period when towards the end of the eight-year Iran-Iraq war, many Iranian leaders demanded the continuation of the war with Iraq while Rafsanjani was among those called for Iran to accept the UN cease-fire offer and end the conflict, which it did. Rafsanjani who at the time was the president of Iran even engaged with the Americans to acquire some weapons, while Khomeini, the ultimate leader and official policy of the state called for no talks with the US. His current opinion therefore is important because he has shown more pragmatism than others and has been able to deliver.

Reports from Tehran indicate that in the heated exchanged that took place two weeks ago between Rafsanjani and members of current president Ahmadinejad’s team, were said in the same light and criticized Ahmadinejad for his provocative propaganda against the United States.

At the same time Ali Akbar Velayati who was Rafsanjani’s foreign minister for years and is currently an advisor to ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei the leader of Iran, said last week that while the West may militarily strike at Iran, it cannot destroy or roll-back the country’s self-sufficiency achievements in the nuclear sphere. Another public figure Ezatollah Sahabi reminded the nation of the hardships of the 8-year Iran-Iraq war and said that the nation suffered so much that it was not ready to engage in yet another military struggle. “We have no doubt that the United States wishes to impose its will but reason dictates that instead of provoking them we should try to dissuade them from embarking on a military confrontation,” he said. He also criticized the presence of the military in Iran’s government and among its rulers. He pointed out that when everything in the country takes a military color, then the world’s concern about the situation in Iran increases. Experience has shown that military rule has always brought disaster to its people, any where in the world,” he added.

It is noteworthy that changes in positions of Iranian leaders and international developments over the nuclear issue take place at a time when Iran’s Supreme National Security Council issued a directive to the media in the country asking them not to publish any news reports indicating concerns about a possible US military attack. But despite this directive, the interviews and talks that the politicians and leaders publicly make in which they make reference to the deterioration of Iran’s standing and the dangers looming over the horizon, it is clear that there is no consensus among Iranian leaders in the government’s response to the gathering storm, even though there is an effort to hide internal differences.

One development that falls into this category which his only unofficially supported by the government is the activities of the group that has been signing up martyr volunteers, which takes place in a room at the former US embassy in Tehran. On Sunday this group which is officially called Passdasht Shohadaye Nehzate Jahani Islam announced that it was registering volunteer martyrs. Its leader claimed that they had already registered 52,000 individuals who had offered suicide missions and that registration would continue till the last day of this Persian month (i.e. Farvardin, which falls on April 20th, 2006).