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News | Secret Negotiations in Vienna?

by MUHAMMAD SAHIMI

22 Apr 2012 02:00Comments
13910202210045112_PhotoL.jpgPress Roundup provides a selected summary of news from the Farsi and Arabic press and excerpts where the source is in English. Tehran Bureau has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy. Any views expressed are the authors' own. Please refer to the Media Guide to help put the stories in perspective. You can follow breaking news stories on our Twitter feed.

2 a.m. IRDT, 3 Ordibehesht/April 22 Since the rift between Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei became public a year ago, the Supreme Leader and his supporters have gradually excluded the president from their decision-making process, especially on matters of foreign policy. This appears to have been the case in the first round of nuclear talks in Istanbul on April 14 between Iran and the P5+1 -- the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany. In response, Ahmadinejad and his allies have started to leak information about what allegedly took place between the Islamic Republic and the world powers before the Istanbul talks.

On Wednesday, Iran, a newspaper that supports Ahmadinejad, ran an article by Abdolreza Soltani called "Shir-o Gorg" -- the lion and the wolf -- claiming that the opposition to Ahmadinejad (which Soltani equates with opposition to the Islamic Republic itself) has been active behind the scenes. More specifically,

The on-the-run diplomat who under the ridiculous cover of a "visiting scholar" at Princeton University is active in the opposition to the political system, published an op-ed in the Boston Globe suggesting a package for nuclear negotiations.

The reference is to Hossein Mousavian, a key member of Iran's nuclear negotiating team during the administration of former President Mohammad Khatami; Mousavian is now an associate research scholar at Princeton University. In a recent op-ed he outlined a plan for the Istanbul negotiations to succeed.

Soltani continues,

On March 26, a second ambassador arrived in Vienna [where the International Atomic Energy Agency is headquartered] in plainclothes, under the cover of visiting his family, and accompanied by his son, to deliver a message.

This is a reference to a trip that Dr. Hassan Rouhani, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator during the Khatami administration, made to Vienna. Rouhani has responded that his trip had nothing to do with the nuclear negotiations. He has threatened to take Iran to court.

Soltani went on to claim,

With a written message, the former spokesman representing the leaders of the "sedition," departs for Riyadh [Saudi Arabia's capital] to make the necessary coordination with the Saudi side and the U.S. emissary in Riyadh.

It is not clear to whom the article is referring, but Minister of Intelligence Heydar Moslehi and Interior Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najar did travel to Saudi Arabia a few weeks ago for what was officially claimed to be a pilgrimage.

Soltani then makes clear the "lion" in the title of his article is the Ahmadinejad administration, while the opposition is the "old and defeated" wolf.

The website Nedaaei az Daroon, which also supports Ahmadinejad, published a more complete version of Soltani's article, describing the confrontation between Ahmadinejad and the opposition camp in three stages. The first stage was the showdown between Ahmadinejad and the "sedition" over the president's dismissing Moslehi via forced resignation and his reinstatement by Khamenei. In Iran's political jargon, "sedition" is used by the Supreme Leader's camp to refer to the Green Movement. But Soltani, using it to refer to the opposition to Ahmadinejad, attacks, without naming him, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and the letter he wrote to Khamenei on June 9, 2009, in which he warned Khamenei that a victory by Ahmadinejad would be very problematic. Soltani then says that the second stage is the nuclear negotiations. He criticizes Majles Speaker Ali Larijani, former Revolutionary Guard chief Mohsen Rezaei -- now secretary-general of the Expediency Discernment Council -- Khatami, and others who are lumped into the "sedition" camp.

At the same time, Melli-Mazhabi, the website of the Nationalist-Religious Coalition, also reports secret negotiations between Rouhani and the IAEA in Vienna took place. The website claims that Iran and the West have reached an agreement that (i) Iran will keep only 1,000 centrifuges for research and propaganda; (ii) the Fordow enrichment facility near Qom will be closed; (iii) Iran will exercise more careful control over the activities of the Badr Brigade in Iraq; (iv) Iran will accept the gradual replacement of the regime of Bashar al-Asad in Syria; (v) President Obama will promise no military attacks on Iran; and (vi) sanctions will be gradually lifted.

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