TEHRAN, Iran – The negotiating stance from Iranian officials never varies: TheIslamic Republic will not give up its capabilities to make nuclearfuel. But embedded in the messages are meanings that reach beyondTehran’s talks with world powers. It points to the struggles within Iran’s ruling system as itreadies for the next round of talks scheduled to begin next week inBaghdad. Iran’s Islamic leadership — which crushed an oppositiongroundswell nearly three years ago and later swatted back a powergrab by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — has now staked itspolitical credibility on its ability to resist Western sanctionsand hold firm to its rights under U.N.
treaties to enrich uranium. Any concessions — either too great or too fast — couldrisk internal rifts within Iran’s power structure. And that coulddraw powerful forces into the mix, including the RevolutionaryGuard that acts as defender of the theocracy and overseer of thenuclear program. As talks deepen, so do the politicalconsiderations for an Islamic establishment that cannot afford toappear to come away empty handed. “Insisting on a halt to enrichment is a deal breaker,” saidTehran-based political analyst Behrooz Shojaei.
“It is Iran’s redline.” This means smaller targets are likely necessary to keep dialoguealive after the Baghdad session next Wednesday between Iran and thesix-nation group comprising the permanent U.N. Security Councilmembers plus Germany. A possible steppingstone goal for the U.S. and allies is to seek tohalt Iran’s production of uranium enriched to 20 percent levels,the highest-grade material acknowledged by Tehran. Wcdma Smartphone
The enrichmentlevel is far above what’s needed for Iran’s lone energy-producingreactor, but it is appropriate for use in medical research. It alsocould be boosted to weapons-grade strength in a matter of months. Iran insists it has no interest in developing atomic weapons, butit sees its uranium labs as a mainstay of its technologicaladvances that include long-range missiles and an aerospace programthat has promised another satellite launch this month. There stillcould be some room, however, for bargaining. Iran has signaled it could consider ending the 20 percentenrichment. Economical Mobile Phone
In return, though, it wants Washington and Europe toease some of the most painful new sanctions, including thosehitting Iran’s oil exports and its access to international bankingnetworks. Such demands would directly test the West’s flexibility. Previously, Washington and European allies have insisted that Iranmust take the first step and suspend all uranium enrichment asrequired by several U.N. Security Council resolutions. Super Slim Cell Phone
They alsoare under pressure from Israel to avoid protracted give-and-takenegotiations. Last week, the European Union’s foreign policy chief CatherineAshton met with Israeli officials, including Prime MinisterBenjamin Netanyahu, to discuss the upcoming talks. Later, Ashtonsaid she hoped for “concrete” results in Baghdad. But the semiofficial Fars news agency quoted Gen. Yadollah Javani,a Revolutionary Guard adviser, as saying it’s too early to beoptimistic.
“Iran does not trust the West,” he said. “The West should build thetrust in the long run.” Netanyahu derided the opening round of talks last month inIstanbul, mocking them as a “freebie” that gave Iran internationalcover to continue enriching uranium. Iran, in turn, has accusedIsrael of trying to destroy the negotiations as pretext to apossible military strike. “All the sides are moving with extreme caution,” said MustafaAlani, a regional affairs analyst at the Gulf Research Center basedin Geneva.
“It seems no one wants to give too much or say too muchat this stage. But also no one wants to be portrayed as the sidethat killed the talks.” This is the tricky ground being navigated by Iran. Its leaders are desperate to avoid any impression of caving underthe Western economic squeeze. Any serious rollbacks — withoutWestern concessions in return — could open room forhard-liners to take pot shots at the ruling clerics.
It also couldput the Revolutionary Guard in the awkward position of defendingthe Islamic system against ultra-nationalists who normally sidewith the Guard. The timing, too, brings added concerns for Iran. Ahmadinejad is moving into his last year in office and the rulingtheocracy is closely watching for any signs of an oppositionresurgence before next year’s elections. It took months for theRevolutionary Guard to snuff out unprecedented street protestsafter Ahmadinejad’s disputed re-election in June 2009. Then theruling system turned against Ahmadinejad last year after he triedto challenge the authority of Supreme Leader Ayatollah AliKhamenei.
“Too much political capital has been invested in the nuclearprogram for … Khamenei to simply slink away and retreat,” wroteIranian affairs analyst Afshin Molavi in Tuesday’s edition of TheNational newspaper in Abu Dhabi. Even after the feuds with Khamenei, Ahmadinejad has been a loyaladvocate to Iran’s negotiating positions at the talks. “If the Westerners change their attitudes and pay respect to theIranian nation, they will be treated respectfully by Iranians, inreturn,” Ahmadinejad said Monday during a tour of eastern Iran. He added: “They should know that Iranian nation will not take asingle step back from their basic rights” — a clear referenceto uranium enrichment.
In Vienna, envoys from Iran and the U.N. nuclear agency held asecond day of talks over suspicions that Tehran might have testedatomic arms technology at a military site. Iran denies the claims. The International Atomic Energy Agency has sought access to theParchin base for more than four years.
It also wants to interviewscientists and review documents. The IAEA believes Iran in 2003 ran explosive tests needed to setoff a nuclear charge. The suspected blasts took place inside apressure chamber, the agency said. A senior diplomat familiar with the IAEA probe says Iran has neversaid whether the chamber existed. A computer-generated drawingprovided to The Associated Press by a nation critical of Iran’snuclear program shows such a structure.
The official who shared itsaid the drawing was based on information from someone who saw thechamber. Iranian envoy Ali Asghar Soltanieh told reporters in Vienna”everything is on the right track.” He described the atmosphere as”very constructive.” ___ Murphy reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Associated Presswriter George Jahn in Vienna contributed to this report.