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Will Iran Finally Blink?


In a bid to end its 5 year nuclear standoff with the international community, Iran's so-called "constructive and creative" response on July 4 has come on the back of hints and rumors suggesting that it might also be willing to honor a 'six week' moratorium on new centrifuge deployments and uranium enrichment in return for a moratorium on new sanctions. Although such suggestions fall clearly short of halting current centrifuge activities and enrichment, they are, nevertheless, being interpreted as a positive sign which might possibly lead to a process of conclusive discussions with the '5+1' countries.

These developments which are perceived to be worthy of pursuit are a product of much internal debate amongst Islamic leaders in the aftermath of Javier Solana's visit to Iran last month and his offer of a new and upgraded incentive package designed to lure Iran away from developing nuclear weapons.

They are worth pursuing because first and foremost it shelves the prospect of yet another unwanted war in the Middle East. Moreover, it stands to create a situation whereby the prospects for stability in the entire region spanning from Afghanistan and Pakistan all the way to Lebanon, Syria and Israel including the Persian Gulf states may also become seriously enhanced. There is general consensus that without Iranian military and financial support coupled with mentoring and training, places such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Palestine would be much quieter places.

The benefits of such a development for the West are obvious. Compromise with Iran on the basis of the Solana package would remove the single most potential current threat to international peace and security.

What is less clear is whether what Iran ultimately gets out of such an arrangement is enough to ensure its continued cooperation. There is no question that the removal of the current economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation would greatly relieve the crippling effects of numerous foreign and domestic pressures being presently exerted upon the Islamic regime.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, the effects of the generally under-estimated UN Security Council sanctions on the Iranian economy have already been quite devastating. Even the high price of oil has failed to compensate for run away inflation and rising unemployment in Iran's sagging economy, where the private sector has been severely bruised and prospects of serious foreign investment, particularly in the oil and gas sector, have become virtually non-existent. Rattled by a threat of military strikes against its nuclear and defense infrastructures, it appears that the Islamic regime is finally taking proper stock of its deteriorating 'no-win' situation.

The fact that President Ahmadinejad has been silent in recent weeks while the likes of Ali Larijani, the new Speaker of the Islamic Parliament and former Foreign Minister, Ali Akbar Velayati, now a Senior Adviser to the Supreme Leader have taken the main podium, is also being seen as a sign that Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is personally intervening to prevent the present crisis from deteriorating any further. But all Islamic leaders are only too aware that at the end of any negotiation, they must be willing to submit to an eventual agreement which satisfies the '5+1' that the non-civilian aspects of Iran's nuclear programs would never be revived.

However, this is the precise scenario that the Islamic leadership, as a whole, has been most keen to avoid. Clearly unable to rely on the 'card' played by their regional surrogates in the longer term, they fear that without the ability 'to flex some nuclear muscle', they will always remain susceptible against a whole host of externally engineered 'plots' aimed at promoting 'regime change.'

Any compromise at this stage which will no doubt be construed as a 'blink' on the part of the Iranian regime, would point to one thing and one thing alone: when it comes to regime survival, the immediate risks of further economic sanctions and potential military strikes for an increasingly unpopular regime with its back against the wall are far worse than any future potential risk of fending against external plots and connivances.

Mehrdad Khonsari

Dr. Mehrdad Khonsari, a former Iranian diplomat, is Senior Research Consultant at the Centre for Arab and Iranian Studies in London.

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Replies: 2 comments

Persia can not harm Israel; it would be an insult to history and to Cyrus the Great, and his most generous Edict of Restoration that allowed return to their homeland for the Jews. Likewise Israel can not harm Persia, and it's historical most generous act of Cyrus. It would not be proper. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyrus_the_Great

Posted by zanardm @ 07/22/2008 08:23 AM CST

Any country that murders rape victims in the name of religion cannot be trusted in any negotiations! They are animals and only understand brute, animal force! The current leaders of Iran are such backward animals that anyone negotiating with them are idiots! God help the ordinary Iranian people, they really need his help to despatch their leaders to hell!

Posted by jimbos @ 08/27/2008 02:49 AM CST

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