- With the International Atomic Energy Agency
(IAEA) poised to refer Iran to the United Nations
Security Council over its nuclear program, Iran's
newly installed President Mahmud Ahmadinejad and
his government, comprising middle-ranked
personalities with military backgrounds, on the
surface have a clear choice to make.
Either the clerical-led leadership stands by
its word and continues sensitive nuclear activities
that major Western nations plus Israel suspect
of hiding military purposes, or it bows down
and reaches a compromise. (The ayatollahs have
shown in the past their ability for last-minute,
180-degree changes of direction.)
As things stand, the leaders are keeping
these two options wide open.
initially highly angered Tehran is pulling back
from some of the belligerent statements it made in
the wake of events at the weekend's IAEA board of
governors meeting in Vienna.
members voted to adopt a resolution stating that
"Iran's many failures and breaches of its
obligations [under the nuclear Non-Proliferation
Treaty - NPT] ... constitute noncompliance."
IAEA chief Mohammad elBaradei will deliver
another report on Iran in November, at which time
it will be decided whether to send the matter to
the Security Council, where sanctions could be
imposed on Iran.
India was one of the
countries that voted for Tehran's case to possibly
be referred to the Security Council. Iran
responded by saying that a US$22 billion deal with
Delhi to buy liquefied natural gas would be
scrapped. But on Thursday a senior Iranian energy
official said that "there has been no order for a
change of policy regarding natural gas projects
Iran put on a bold face
following the IAEA vote, pointing out that the
"fact that so many important nations of the world
did not approve of the resolution [China and
Russia abstained] was a big defeat for the West's
efforts to deprive Iran from its natural nuclear
Nevertheless, despite some choice
rhetoric, Iran said that the door was still open
for negotiation, although it would like to extend
any talks beyond its original EU-3 (Britain,
France and Germany) interlocutors.
home front, though, the official line is
In an article published in
the radical daily Keyhan, the editor, Hoseyn
Shari'atmadari, a former intelligence officer
appointed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali
Khamenei, called on both the government of
Ahmadinejad and the conservatives-controlled
majlis (parliament) to ignore the IAEA resolution
and immediately leave the NPT and end all
lawmakers for their "leniency" and "absence of
brinkmanship", Shari'atmadari, an influential
supporter of the president, urged them to vote a
"very urgent" bill compelling the government to
withdraw from the NPT and to reject its Additional
Protocol, which allows for intrusive inspections
at Iran's nuclear facilities.
were clearly heeded. On Wednesday the majlis
approved a motion that paves the way for the
government to suspend implementation of the
Additional Protocol until Tehran succeeded in
obtaining recognition of its right to complete the
nuclear fuel cycle.
Speaking after the
parliamentary session, Ali Larijani, Iran's
secretary of the Supreme National Security Council
and chief nuclear negotiator, said that Iran
should do its best in defeating "Western plots" to
take Iran to the Security Council.
very next breath, though, when asked if Iran would
reduce the level of its diplomatic and economic
relations with the countries that voted for the
IAEA resolution, particularly India and the EU-3,
Larijani, a former Revolutionary Guards officer
like the president, dismissed the reports, saying
the government was against taking hasty decisions.
In an interview with the semi-independent
student news agency ISNA, Mahmoud Dehqan, a
professor at Tehran University, urges the
decision-makers to be "realistic" and not
"idealist", hinting at Pakistan's open talks with
Israel and India's vote against Iran as examples
of realpolitik and national interests.
perhaps Ahmadinejad and the ayatollahs are being
supremely realistic. By insisting on Iran's
"legitimate right" to possess the full nuclear
cycle, they have transformed the nuclear problem
into a national issue, which the populace at large
has embraced with vigor.
But the leaders
have not yet painted themselves too far into a
corner - until November at least, their options
are still open, and they could yet reconcile the
push and pull of domestic and international
Safa Haeri is a
Paris-based Iranian journalist covering the Middle
East and Central Asia.