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News | Ahmadinejad: I'll Exit Politics at Term's End; US Senators Balk at Talks

16 Jun 2012 21:15Comments

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AhmjadBWHeadDown.jpg9:15 p.m. IRDT, 27 Khordad/June 16 Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says he intends to leave politics after the end of his second term in 2013; the Iranian Constitution bars the president from seeking a third consecutive term in office. Ahmadinejad spoke with the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung:
"Eight years are enough," Ahmadinejad told the newspaper, which released highlights of the interview Saturday. "I plan to go back into academia."

Ahmadinejad, 55, is [a] hydraulic construction engineer who was awarded a doctorate in 1997 for his research into transport systems.

"Maybe I'll get involved politically at the university, but I'm not going to found any political party or grouping."

[...] He ruled out standing aside for another candidate and then seeking a third term in a few years, as was recently done by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Last year, there was widespread speculation within Iran that Ahmadinejad would promote Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, his chief of staff and closest political confidant, to succeed him in office; First Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi was also considered a possible Ahmadinejad heir.

The growing division between the president and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, however, now appears to indicate that Ahmadinejad's ability to influence next year's election will be severely limited at best. In addition, the many attacks by the clerical establishment and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps on the so-called "perverted current" in government -- universally understood to mean Mashaei and his inner circle -- as well as the financial corruption scandal in which Rahimi continues to be embroiled make the scenario of either man succeeding Ahmadinejad extremely unlikely.

***

In a letter addressed to U.S. President Barack Obama that was released Friday, a group of 44 senators urge him to hold off on further talks with the Islamic Republic if the negotiations about to commence in Moscow do not yield a "substantive agreement" and "instead focus on significantly increasing the pressure on the Iranian government through sanctions and making clear that a credible military option exists." The full text of the letter follows:

Dear Mr. President:

We are writing to share our views about discussions between the Iranian government and the P5+1 over Iran's nuclear program. We are concerned that, while the meetings held earlier this year in Istanbul and Baghdad unfortunately failed to produce positive progress, Tehran has continued to expand and accelerate its uranium enrichment activities, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). It is past time for the Iranians to take the concrete steps that would reassure the world that their nuclear program is, as they claim, exclusively peaceful. Absent these steps, we must conclude that Tehran is using the talks as a cover to buy time as it continues to advance toward nuclear weapons capability. We know that you share our conviction that allowing Iran to gain this capability is unacceptable.

Iran must come into full cooperation with the IAEA and full compliance with all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions, including verifiable suspension of nuclear enrichment. While many of us believe, based on Iran's history of deceptive and illicit behavior, that Iran cannot be trusted to conduct any enrichment activities nor retain any quantity of enriched uranium on its soil for the foreseeable future, amongst the absolute minimum steps it must take immediately are shutting down of the Fordow facility, freezing enrichment above 5 percent, and shipping all uranium enriched above 5 percent out of the country. We understand that this was the very proposal that the P5+1 advanced during the Baghdad meeting.

Were Iran to agree to and verifiably implement these steps, this would demonstrate a level of commitment by Iran to the process and could justify continued discussions beyond the meeting in Moscow. However, we still must address the totality of Iran's problematic nuclear activities. Barring full, verifiable Iranian compliance with all Security Council resolutions and full cooperation with the IAEA, including a new, far more intrusive inspections regime under the Additional Protocol, we see no circumstances under which Iran should be relieved from the current sanctions or those scheduled to come into effect at the end of this month. Only when Tehran is convinced that the sanctions will be both unremitting and crippling is there any prospect for a real diplomatic breakthrough.

On the other hand, if the sessions in Moscow produce no substantive agreement, we urge you to reevaluate the utility of further talks at this time and instead focus on significantly increasing the pressure on the Iranian government through sanctions and making clear that a credible military option exists. As you have rightly noted, "the window for diplomacy is closing." Iran's leaders must realize that you mean precisely that.

The letter, organized by senators Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), has a bipartisan roster of signatories: the other 42 comprise 23 Democrats, 18 Republicans, and Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.).

A senior Senate aide told Foreign Policy's Josh Rogin, "The message of this letter is that Congress'[s] patience is running out when it comes to meetings that don't yield results.... The Iranians have been given every last opportunity to demonstrate their good faith and step back from the brink. Instead, they keep pushing forward with their nuclear program, and we keep asking for yet another round of talks. This is not sustainable."

Copyright © 2012 Tehran Bureau

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