Wednesday, May 10, 2006

THE WAY TO BEAT IRAN'S CONFRONTATIONALISTS

Courtesy of Iran Press News, an interesting article from Karim Sadjadpour:
Beirut (Daily Star)

As the international community wrestles with Iran's nuclear ambitions, a longstanding debate on the nuclear issue rages in Tehran, and Western policymakers and analysts should not ignore it.

Though Iranian officials publicly project a unified mindset, in reality the country's ruling elites are divided into three broad categories: those who favor pursuit of the nuclear fuel cycle at all costs; those who wish to pursue it without sacrificing diplomatic interests; and those who argue for a suspension of activities to build trust and allow for a full fuel cycle down the road. Understanding and exploiting these differences should be a key component of any diplomatic approach.

The first group, supporters of President Mahmoud Ahmadi Nezhad, comprises confrontationists who romanticize the defiance of the revolution's early days. Believing that former President Mohammad Khatami's "detente" foreign policy earned Tehran nothing but entry into the "Axis of Evil", they argue that Iran should withdraw from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), unequivocally pursue its nuclear ambitions, and dare the international community to react.

They advocate measures such as withholding oil exports and cutting diplomatic ties with countries that side against Iran, confident that "the West needs Iran more than we need them."

The second group, like the confrontationists, argues that Iran is "bound by national duty" to pursue its "inalienable" right to enrich uranium, but unlike them, favors working within an international framework. Lead nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani is representative of this group, arguing simultaneously - perhaps inconsistently - that Iran must not succumb to "Western double standards," but also that "a country's survival depends on its political and diplomatic ties: you can't live in isolation."

The third, more conciliatory group is arguably the most reflective of popular sentiment, but is also currently the least influential in the circles of power. Believing the costs of nuclear intransigence to be greater than its benefits, they claim Iran should freeze its enrichment activities to build confidence and assuage international concerns.

As reformist leader Mustafa Tajzadeh told me, "We have far more pressing concerns facing our country than a lack of uranium enrichment." This group has consistently backed direct talks with the United States, convinced that the Europeans are incapable of providing the political, economic and security dividends Iran seeks.
Compare this situation with pre-War Iraq - there were no second or third groups we could deal with.

In a simlar vein, if you missed it the first time around, Hitchens' "Let the exchange of trade and ideas with Iran begin" might be worth a gander.

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