February 23, 2007

NUKES ARE THE LEVER WITH WHICH THE AYATOLLAHS CAN MOVE MAHMOUD OUT OF THE WAY:

Signals From Tehran (David Ignatius, 2/23/07, Real Clear Politics)

The multi-pronged squeeze on Tehran surprised President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other Iranian officials, who seemed confident when I visited the country last September that they were in the driver's seat, and that it was the U.S. that was weakened and isolated. "We knocked them off stride and put them on the defensive,'' argues Burns. A British official who follows the issue closely agrees: "The Iranians have moved from cockiness to division and nervousness.''

Western officials see various signs of an altered political balance in Tehran: public criticism of Ahmadinejad's management of the economy by former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani; a letter challenging the president's economic policy signed by 150 members of the Iranian parliament; criticism of Ahmadinejad's handling of the nuclear issue by former members of the Iranian negotiating team and by a hard-line newspaper; and now new signals from Larijani and others that Iran wants to resume the preliminary negotiations it broke off last September.

"The financial sanctions have had a real impact,'' says the British official. "They lead to a general insecurity about economic viability.''

So does all this mean it's time to go back to the bargaining table? Not yet, say a range of U.S. and European officials. They insist the Iranians must stop haggling and agree to stop enriching uranium. Russian officials told me in Moscow last week that President Vladimir Putin passed the message to a top Iranian emissary a week ago that Tehran must agree to a "time out'' in enriching uranium if it wants to settle the nuclear issue.


It seems not unlikely that Mr. Putin's rather absurd recent saber-rattling is driven by domestic political pressures to distract attention from his complete fold to the West over Iran.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 23, 2007 8:22 AM
Comments

A nuclear Islamist Iran is a threat to Russia too. They have a big restless Muslim population, and a nuclear Iran will no longer be a Russian client.

Posted by: ic at February 23, 2007 10:25 AM

When Iran coughs up the cash, it'll be back to biz.

Posted by: Sandy P at February 23, 2007 11:05 AM
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