Iran bogged down in nuclear controversy

By K.N. Pandita – A less expressed view in some knowledgeable Iranian circles is that the new President’s hard-line posture is an exception rather than the rule There are other more baffling issues that must fill the priority list of the President. Un-remitted social
and economic baggage, groupism in civilian and military establishments and a restructured relationship with the west should be among his priorities. Above all, declining interest in the ideals of Islamic Revolution of Khumeini’s days among the younger generation that forms more than half of her population need to be attended.

However, the President is beset with the nuclear crisis, which projects him as an inveterate hardliner. Perhaps the catalyst for hard-line stance on nuclear programme is not strictly of President’s choosing. Other factors seem to have contributed to it.

President Ahmadinejad’s landslide victory in the election is said to have been possible owing to the tacit support he received from the hard-line security, intelligence and military structures. They want Iran to enhance her global status and prestige and believe that nuclearization provides the roadmap for that programme.

Besides recognition of her strategic position in the oil rich Gulf, Iran also wants to emerge as the power to be reckoned with in the region after the battering of Iraq and growing disapproval of the Muslim world of Saudi camaraderie with the Americans. Pakistan’s interest in helping Iran proceed with her nuclear programme is not only to forge a another steel arm of Islamic religious power but also to arm the vocal detractor of the United States in the region.

Iran’s uranium enrichment programme had been suspended for some time in view of negotiations with the European Union. There is reason why the matter of handling Iran’s ambition of acquiring nuclear capability has been left to the European Union and that the US plays only at the background. European Union depends on Iran’s oil supplies to a much larger extent than the US. Moreover, Iran has a long history of good relations with the European countries. They were not too happy with Washington’s handling of Iranian revolution of 1979.

According to a leaked report in two Iranian newspapers, Iran’s Supreme Religious leader Ayatollah Khamenei was eager to obtain the agreement of leading religious leaders for continuation of Iran’s nuclear programme under the new President. Thus in a private meeting at his residence before the new President was sworn in met two former Presidents, Hashimi Rafsinjani and Mohammad Khatami, Mir Hussain Mosavi, prime minister during Iraq war and the president elect Ahmadinejad.

At the moment, three European states, France , Germany and the UK are inching towards the opinion of asking the Security Council for imposition of sanctions on Iran in case she does not halt her plans for enrichment of uranium at Isfahan. The matter is still in the hands of IAEA.

It is unlikely that Iranian policy planers have not taken into account the reaction of the European Union, the US and the Security Council. India and Pakistan both suffered economic sanctions following their exploding of nuclear weapon in 1998. Today the US has almost recognised India a nuclear power and is providing Pakistan a wide range of sophisticated military hardware. This means that strategic interests count more than unsubstantiated principles. Teheran is aware of that.

An individual close to a top aide to Ahmadinejad told a news agency that in Ahmadinejad’s first face-to-face meeting with Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s point-man on the nuclear issue, the president-elect had said that being referred to the Security Council is a small price to pay for completing Iran’s nuclear program.

Much before his formal assumption of office, Ahmadinejad had decided to bring into his cabinet such persons as had made no secret of their strong support to Iran’s nuclear programme. Ali Larijani, the outspoken critic of Khatami’s nuclear policy is likely to be the foreign minister under the new President.

However, as we have said in the beginning, nuclear issue should not be taken as the final barometer of President Ahmadinejad’s foreign policy. His resilience should not be underestimated. For example, in a bid of doing a delicate balancing act, the Iranian and Israeli press recently reported that the new President plans to meet with leaders of the Iranian Jewish community in New York City in September when he will visit the US to attend the UN General Assembly. Farhad Rehbar and Dawood Daneshjafari are replacing their counterparts in Khatami cabinet and both of them are reported to be staunch supporters of economic liberalization.

Aside from the president’s own inner circle are two power centres likely to figure heavily in any future political calculations: the Issargaran (“Those who make sacrifices”), individuals with backgrounds in intelligence, security and the Revolutionary Guards; and the Abadgaran parliamentary faction, a group that heavily favoured Ahmadinejad’s rival in the presidential elections, economic crime tsar Mohammed-Bagir Qaalibaf, and is tied to an organization called the Islamic Engineers Association.

Yet such opposition in no way indicates any slackening in Ahmadinejad’s conservative worldview. As he commented in the run-up to his June 24 election, “We did not have a revolution to have democracy.”

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