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Outside View: Iran nuclear divisions

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only
by Pyotr Goncharov
Moscow (UPI) Nov 21, 2007
For the first time, divisions within the Iranian political elite over its nuclear program are starting to emerge into the open.

Former presidents Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami have warned the nation, albeit in low-key tones, that the escalation of tension around the nuclear program is dangerous and is threatening a confrontation between Iran and the world community.

But Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told the nation the other day that he will not tolerate nuclear dissent: "If some circles within Iran do not stop exerting pressure on the nuclear program, they will be exposed before the whole nation. They are traitors, and in line with our promise to the people of Iran, we will not be watching them passively."

This was the first open threat against nuclear dissidents in Iran. Ayatollahs believe that it is a sick bird that fouls its own nest, and Ahmadinejad's statement is interesting for this reason. Besides, it contained some details that are worth discussing. First, he promised to make public "all information about the traitors ... after the nuclear problem is settled." Second, he said that some "traitors" had compelled a judge to "justify espionage."

The reference appears to be to Hussein Mousavian, former head of the Foreign Policy Committee at the Supreme National Security Council. During Khatami's presidency he was a leading negotiator at the talks with the EU Troika on Iran's nuclear program. When the Ahmadinejad government came to power in the summer of 2005, he left politics for scientific work. But in May 2007 he was arrested -- ostensibly on suspicion of disclosing secret information to foreign states.

The Iranian authorities have not specified the charges against Mousavian or reported about the investigation, leaving many questions unanswered. Who are those people who have managed to compel the judge to "justify espionage?" They must be at the very top of the political elite. Why will "all information about the traitors" be made public after the settlement of the nuclear problem?

Why talk about this at all? Most likely, Ahmadinejad was provoked into such a strong statement by his main opponent, George W. Bush. Last week the U.S. president routinely warned the Iranian regime that it will face sanctions and further isolation if it fails to halt its nuclear-enrichment program: "What the Iranian regime must understand is that we will continue to work together to solve this problem diplomatically, which means they will continue to be isolated. And what the Iranian people must understand is that we respect their heritage and respect their traditions, respect their potential -- but it's their government that has made the decisions that are denying them a bright future."

This tirade required an answer, primarily the words about the Iranian people. This time Ahmadinejad decided to start not with defending the very idea of the domestic nuclear cycle, which Tehran calls a national project, but with what he considers even more important -- "the traitors." Did he mean the two former presidents, or are there other opponents of the regime?

The Persian language has a saying that succinctly describes the drama of the seemingly calm situation -- straw-covered water. Right now, it can be used to describe not only the nuclear program but also the situation inside the Iranian political elite and government.

(Pyotr Goncharov is a political commentator for RIA Novosti, but the opinions expressed in this article are his alone and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.)

(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)

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Analysis: No more oranges for Iran
Berlin (UPI) Nov 21, 2007
Europe is increasingly willing to agree to harsher economic sanctions against Iran, which seems to be the price to pay to prevent a U.S. military strike against the Islamic republic.

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