Iran – Them and Us

Ali Larijani Resigns
by Farideh Farhi, Saturday, October 20, 2007

Ali Larijani, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator and the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, has resigned. This is a big deal!

The fact that Larijani had threatened to resign several times was an open secret in Iran; a fact that was even acknowledged by the government spokesman, Gholam-hossein Elham, in his announcement of Larijani’s resignation (Al Jazeera has good round up of some of Larijani’s conflicts with Ahmadinejad).

What is surprising is Ayatollah Khamenei’s agreement to this resignation and the reported replacement of Larijani by Saeed Jalili, a deputy foreign minister for European affairs who actually has very little diplomatic experience (Jalili’s experience at the foreign Ministry prior to being assigned as deputy minister by Ahmadinejad was in personnel matters). What Jalili does have is a very close relationship with Ahmadinejad. As such, the move, if it is confirmed, reflects yet another enhancement of Ahmadinejad’s fortunes in Iranian politics.

So far the Iranian system seems to be in a state of shock. Larijani was considered a successful handler of the Iranian nuclear file and his agreement with the IAEA regarding a work plan to resolve the remaining outstanding issues over Iran’s nuclear program an important step forward.

His announced meeting with Europe’s foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, for next Tuesday makes the timing of the resignation even stranger and suggests the extent to which this move might have been impromptu and really the result of intense personal as well as policy conflicts between Larijani and Ahmadinejad. The straw that broke the camel’s back was probably Larijani’s assertion that Putin had a special message about Iran’s nuclear file and Ahmadinejad’s public rejection of that assertion.

Several important politicians in Iran, including Ahmad Tavkoli, the head of Majles’ Research Center, and Mohsen Rezaie, the Expediency Council’s secretary, have already expressed their concern and unease about Larijani’s resignation as well as his replacement by a novice. The deputy head of Majles’ Foreign Relations Committee has promised an investigation.

The most unsettling aspect of this move from the insiders point of view may be questions raised regarding Ayatollah Khamenei’s control over the nuclear file. Both of the possibilities – that he has either lost control or decided to throw his support for the most radical elements in the Iranian political system – are bound to unsettle the domestic political scene. For him, to be seen as being in one corner with Ahmadinejad against all the other heavyweights of Iranian politics, including Hashemi Rafsanjani, Khatami, Karrubi, Rezaie, Qalibaf, and now Larijani, is a predicament he has tried hard to avoid at least publicly.

Khamenei’s reaction to and explanation of why and how this happened will be important for calming nerves inside Iran. But the mere fact that such an open and public split has occurred, as far as I know for the first time on the foreign policy front, will have important ramifications particularly with the nearing of parliamentary elections.

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Cheney: US Will Not Let Iran Go Nuclear
AP, Posted: 2007-10-21 14:35:17

LEESBURG, Va. (AP) – The United States and other nations will not allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon, Vice President Dick Cheney said Sunday.

“Our country, and the entire international community, cannot stand by as a terror-supporting state fulfills its grandest ambitions,” Cheney said in a speech to the Washington Institute for Near East Studies.

He said Iran’s efforts to pursue technology that would allow them to build a nuclear weapon are obvious and that “the regime continues to practice delay and deceit in an obvious effort to buy time.”

If Iran continues on its current course, Cheney said the U.S. and other nations are “prepared to impose serious consequences.” The vice president made no specific reference to military action.

“We will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon,” he said.

Cheney’s words seemed to only escalate the U.S. rhetoric against Iran over the past several days, including President Bush ‘s warning that a nuclear Iran could lead to “World War III.”

Cheney said the ultimate goal of the Iranian leadership is to establish itself as the hegemonic force in the Middle East and undermine a free Shiite-majority Iraq as a rival for influence in the Muslim world.

Iran’s government seeks “to keep Iraq in a state of weakness to ensure Baghdad does not pose a threat to Tehran,” Cheney said.

While he was critical of that government and President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, he offered praise and words of solidarity to the Iranian people. Iran “is a place of unlimited potential … and it has the right to be free of tyranny,” Cheney said.

Cheney accused of Iran of having a direct role in the deaths of U.S. soldiers in Iraq and said the government has “solidified its grip on the country” since coming to power in 1979.

The U.S. and some allies accuse Iran of secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons and have demanded it halt uranium enrichment, an important step in the production of atomic weapons. Oil-rich Iran says its program is for peaceful purposes including generating electricity.

At a news conference Wednesday, Bush suggested that if Iran obtained nuclear weapons, it could lead to a new world war.

“I’ve told people that if you’re interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them (Iran) from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon,” Bush said.

Bush’s spokeswoman later said the president was making not making any war plans but rather “a rhetorical point.”

Also, on Thursday, the top officer in the U.S. military said the U.S. has the resources to attack Iran if needed despite the strains of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan .

Navy Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said striking Iran is a last resort, and the focus now on diplomacy to stem Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but “there is more than enough reserve to respond” militarily if need be.

The Bush administration’s intentions toward Iran have been the subject of debate in Congress .

Last month the Senate approved a resolution urging the State Department to label Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization.

Sen. Jim Webb , D-Va., said he feared the measure could be interpreted as authorizing a military strike in Iran, calling it Cheney’s “fondest pipe dream.”

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press.

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