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Analysts: Internal Disputes behind Nuclear Delay

by SECURITY CORRESPONDENT

26 Oct 2009 00:17Comments
Ahmadi on TV.jpg[ analysis ] As Iran prolongs replying to a nuclear deal seen as a first step towards ending the Islamic Republic's longstanding standoff with the international community, analysts inside Iran say the delayed response is not a sign of a U-turn in Iran's apparent willingness to negotiate, but the result of internal disputes as Iranian lawmakers seek to delineate limits on the reach of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's domestic power.

Though many conservative lawmakers who broke ranks with Ahmadinejad during his last presidency have rallied behind his latest legislative initiatives, his government is still dealing with the consequences of a harsh crackdown on opposition activities during a post-election crisis that marked the deepest divide within Iran's ruling elite during the country's thirty years since the revolution.

"[They're] warning the president about the limits of his power...because it looked like they were circumventing the parliament," said a Tehran-based analyst.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, presented on Wednesday a draft agreement to Iran, Russia, the United States and France to cut down Iran's stockpile of low-enriched uranium by having it send 1.2 tons of its declared 1.5-ton reserve of low-enriched uranium to Russia and France by the end of the year, Reuters reported, citing western diplomats.

Under the proposal approved by negotiators last week, Russia would process the fuel for use in an Iranian medical-research reactor. Russia, France, and the United States formally accepted the deal by the IAEA's Friday deadline, but expressed willingness to wait for Iran's reply after the country's chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, asked for more time.

Faced with the task of having to appear tough to hardliners who view compromise on the country's nuclear program as a sellout to the United States, the Islamic regime will be pressured to amend the proposal as a way to satisfy conservatives in Iran who say the country's negotiators gave away too much in last week's agreement too quickly, analysts say.

Last Sunday's bombing attacks by the Jundallah terrorist group in Sistan and Baluchistan, which killed 15 Revolutionary Guard commanders and dozens of civilians, increased pressure on Ahmadinejad even further after Iranian government officials publicly accused the U.S. and Britain -- key players in the outcome of any nuclear negotiations -- of being connected to the terrorist attacks.

But analysts and government insiders say the Islamic Republic has adopted a policy of measured pragmatism that ultimately aims to end hostilities. "The West has always carried out a stick and carrot approach with Iran. Part of the stick is to support these types of groups, and they are fully aware of that. There's a pragmatism...as long as the carrot and stick approach continues, there will always be a suspicion. But the Iranian policy will be to negotiate," said a government adviser.

Copyright © 2009 Tehran Bureau

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