Iran: fighting the opposition amid intense pressure
Pyotr Goncharov for RIA Novosti
TV footage of demonstrations by the Iranian opposition being scattered by the police have become almost routine. What is less obvious is that they reflect the current political crisis of the Iranian administration.
Notably it is this domestic policy that determines Iran's conduct in the world arena on major issues, including the international conflict over its nuclear program.
The Iranian public is being showered with reports about resignations and dismissals. The ministers of culture, labor, public affairs, health, and intelligence had to leave their posts. However, the big sensation has been First Vice President Rahim Mashaei's forced resignation by Iran's spiritual leader Ali Khamenei.
This is a serious symptom which shows that Khamenei is no longer capable of defending his protege Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as he did before. Hence, there is a growing opposition in the ayatollah club not only to Ahmadinejad, but also to Khamenei himself. Today's rulers are being opposed by a moderate group represented by former presidents - Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Ayatollah Mohammad Khatami, and ex-Prime Minister Mir-Hossein Mousavi, the opposition leader.
Ahmadinejad is doing everything to save the regime but has to do this in conditions of intense international pressure.
The Barack Obama administration is hoping to hear Iran's response to its proposals to negotiate its nuclear program by September, the start of the UN General Assembly regular session, as U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced today during his talks with his Israeli counterpart Ehud Barak in Jerusalem.
Gates recalled that the United States is ready to protect Israel against the nuclear and missile threats, and will render it the necessary technical and economic support in order to strengthen its missile defense.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has already warned Tehran that if Iran does not positively react to these proposals, it will no longer be able to avoid "greater international isolation in all areas." Recently, Russia and the United States have unanimously set tough terms to Iran. At a joint briefing, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his American counterpart Hillary Clinton in Phuket, Thailand, urged Iran to reply to 'the 5 + 1' proposal as soon as possible. This is the first time Russia and the United States have demonstrated such unanimity.
Quite recently, the position was much softer. At their recent summit in L'Aquila, G8 leaders agreed to wait till September and then decide, depending on Iran's response, whether to toughen sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program or award it with bonuses.
The proposals were made to Iran in April for two reasons - in view of the natural pause in the nuclear dialogue and because of the approaching elections in Iran.
In unanimous opinion, these April proposals were more than attractive. Iran was guaranteed fully-fledged cooperation in modern nuclear technology in exchange for its renouncement of its uranium-enrichment program. Tehran had more than enough time to appreciate these proposals, and it did this in its usual manner.
Shortly after the L'Aquila summit, Tehran expressed its readiness to present a package of responses to the 5 + 1 proposals. Its Foreign Affairs Ministry assured everyone with due authority that this package will become a good foundation for Iran's talks with the West, and will reflect not only its response to the challenges to the Middle East but also its position on security and regional policy.
In addition, Iran will be ready to discuss with the West universal nuclear disarmament, a search for ways out of the global economic crisis (to be sure, on Iran's example), and other philosophical issues. The Foreign Affairs Ministry mentioned that Iran's prestige as a regional power has grown immensely after the June 12 elections. In other words, as if in an act of irony, Tehran expressed its readiness to discuss absolutely everything save the proposed versions of cooperation on its nuclear program.
What happens within the Iranian administration today shows that the April enthusiasm is decreasing, probably because of the opposition's demonstrations and a split in the ruling elite.
However, it is not yet clear what these domestic changes in Iran will result in. Is it possible that Ahmadinejad's new administration has adjusted its stand on its nuclear program? There is no answer so far.
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