Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Compromise or Big Battle

Mehrdad Sheibani, Rooz Online:
According to the Iranian calendar (every day March 21st is the first day of the Nowruz, the Persian new year) next week marks the end of Spring and the arrival of Summer, when 100 years ago the Iranian Constitutional movement emerged victorious, limiting the arbitrary powers of the king. Unfortunately, it soon gave way to a brutal dictatorship which in fact cut short the accomplishments of the revolution. READ MORE

Today, a century after the first liberating revolution in the Middle East was halted, Iran is on the eve of a summer which will again decide its fate. During the hey day of the Constitutional struggles, Sattar Khan an ordinary Iranian who became the leader of the revolutionary movement but finally left this world through an assassination responded in these words to the Russian ambassador’s surrender proposal: “I want the Iranian flag to represent seven nations, and you expect me to go under the Russian flag?” One hundred years later, Ali Larijani, who received his command from the “hidden party” now running Iran, proposes talks to the Americans.

The week that passed revealed that these talks were in fact part of a larger “grand deal” towards which the hardline government of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been working for a full year now, mostly undercover but sometimes out in the open too. Dr Mohammad Javad Larijani, who is one of 5 brothers holding key posts in the Islamic Republic of Iran, is the theoretician of this strategy and plan. In an interview with the government student ISNA news agency, he once again “counseled” the US to work with “victorious Iran.” He has referred to ayatollah’s key slogan that talks between Iran and the US resemble to talks between a wolf and a sheep a taboo that was a remnant of the Iranian left and has concluded that “if the Iran and the US talk told each other, their interests would be better met.”

As the helmsman of Iran’s current foreign policy, Ali Larijani (Javad’s brother) has repeated a summary of his brother’s remarks in official circles. We want talks in which both sides emerge as victorious”, he has said. As the chairman of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, Larijani said, “There are no obstacles in holding talks with the US.” He then said that Iran awaited a change in US behavior and declared that he had not yet witnessed any such change. And recognizing the critical historic junction at which Iran currently is, he said “We are on the verge of making a very important choice.”

Aftab Internet news website quoted AlHayat newspaper about a “grand bargain” and its “obstacles.” The developments and path that the nuclear issue has seen has made many believe that there is a bargain being discussed between Iran and the West. Suspicions about the deal are raised when news reports indicate that EU’s chief foreign policy official had visited Israel just before his trip to Tehran last week. The conclusion is that Israel has remained part of this deal, talks for which has been in the works in secret. As part of these talks, Mohammad Nahavandian had met US President George Bush’s national security advisor Steve Hadley, among others. This meeting had been arranged by owners of some large oil and military companies, while a number of neocons too had participated in the talks”, the website wrote.

What seems to emerge is that this grand deal can be accomplished only after Israel is recognized, and in fact the Middle East issue is part of the talks and the deal. And this is precisely what Larijani has called “special outcome” pursued by the US.

During the whole of last week, the two contending parties in the nuclear issue, i.e. Iran and the US, continued to align their forces so that each would present the winning card when they actually sat across each other at the negotiating table.

Last week began when an American television channel published the full text of the 7 incentives and economic package proposed by the major world powers to Iran. Western officials who continue classify the contents of the proposal as “secret” denied the contents of the media’s report while all stressing one point: “The key condition is that Ian suspend its nuclear enrichment.”

US’s UN ambassador John Bolton announced that the US was not after a grand bargain with Iran, adding that “regime change” in Iran as the solution to the problem. And George Bush who had unexpectedly traveled to Iraq to personally request the Iraqi prime minister not to allow Iran to interfere in Iraq, announced a deadline for Iran. He said that Iranians had only a few weeks, not months to make a decision.

And while the new report of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna announced that there were new indications highly enriched uranium and stressed the “unresolved” issues regarding Iran’s nuclear programs, the leaders of France and the UK jointly sent a message to the Islamic Republic of Iran asking it to end its nuclear programs as soon as possible. At the same time, US DOS spokesman revealed that there was no security provision in the new incentives package sent to Iran. By the middle of last week, developments had become so hot that Etemad newspaper in Iran wrote that the West was holding its stick up in the air.

The week that passed also showed that the US still needed more time to organize its consensus against Iran, in particular to win over China and Russia to elevate its pressures to their height. These pressures are expected to produce a division within the Iranian leadership and organize people’s movements against the regime. These movements are aimed at producing the desired result: regime change in Iran. Iranian opposition groups outside the country are to organize in an unprecedented manner and take the leadership of the movements and be the successor force to the regime in Tehran. Reza Phalvai, the son of the last ruling king of Iran deposed in the revolution of 1979, seems to have been relegated an important role in these events as he announced that all Iranian opposition groups except one armed organization, are uniting and shall hold a joint conference in the third week of this month in Washington DC.

The Islamic Republic of Iran appears to need more time: time to succeed in breaking-up the group of 8 countries leading the opposition against Iran as evidenced by president Ahmadinejad’s trip to China, to neutralize the US until George Bush’s presidency ends, and most importantly to build its first nuclear bomb. Analysts interpret Ahmadinejad’s trip to Egypt to be aimed at winning allies against an attack on the region. But this comes at a time when the Persian Gulf countries announce their concerns about Iran’s nuclear issues, while there is talk of a new front being formed against Iran.

Inside Iran, the “iron fist” policy of the hardliners continues. The unprecedented suppression and force used against women in the women’s Monday rally because the official announced policy. Veil clad policewomen who displayed their violence and force handed over the arrested women to the judiciary officials of the country, which announced the grounds for the arrest of some 70 “men and women” to be participation in an illegal procession. This comes at a time when the government issues permits only for official gatherings and labels any other to be illegal.

This week also revealed more developments in re-alignment of forces inside the regime. The departure of the Abadgaran group from the traditional forces of the revolution was interpreted to mean the arrival of the “military party” which is rapidly taking over all aspects of Iran’s political, economic, social etc life. And after a large oil deal was handed over to the Passdaran Revolutionary Guards Corp, the BBC interpreted the move to conclude that the Guards now enjoyed a superior political-economic position as a military group. The week also witnessed more clerics pushed aside from political life and institutions. Hassan Rowhani, a cleric who once held the important post of chairman of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council complained about the removal of old revolutionary figures and warned that the new authorities were not capable of running the country. “We cannot trust and rely on new arrivals to take the country through the complex turns and twins that it is going through,” he said. Words that were also echoed by Hashemi Rafsanjani, former president, Majlis (Iran's Parliament) leader, and current chairman of the State Expediency Council.

The official media continued to talk of the “defeat of the West”, and the “retreat of global arrogance”, while denouncing the European incentives/economic package proposed to Iran in return for suspension of its nuclear enrichment program.

The week ended with deputy oil minister’s announcement that Japan had turned its back to a large oil development project in the Azadegan region. Iran’s football team lost to Mexico, a game that had been labeled to defend the honor of Iran by president Ahmadinejad, which indicated that science and not slogans call the shots in the world.

So as the heat of the summer is arriving, two important events stand before the Iranian nation: June 29th when the foreign ministers of the 8 major industrial powers meet, and July 15 when the G8 meets, which is interpreted to be the deadline for Iran’s reply to the nuclear standoff.
A must read.