ROVING EYE Attack Iran and you attack
Russia By Pepe Escobar
The barely reported highlight of Russian
President Vladimir Putin's visit to Tehran for the
Caspian Sea summit last week was a key
face-to-face meeting with Supreme Leader Ayatollah
A high-level diplomatic
source in Tehran tells Asia Times Online that
essentially Putin and the Supreme Leader have
agreed on a plan to nullify the George W Bush
administration's relentless drive towards
launching a preemptive attack, perhaps a tactical nuclear
strike, against Iran. An
American attack on Iran will be viewed by Moscow
as an attack on Russia.
But then, as if
this were not enough of a political bombshell,
came the abrupt resignation of Ali Larijani as top
Iranian nuclear negotiator. Early this week in
Rome, Larijani told the IRNA news agency that
"Iran's nuclear policies are stable and will not
change with the replacement of the secretary of
the Supreme National Security Council [SNSC]."
Larijani will keep attending SNSC meetings, now as
a representative of the Supreme Leader. He even
took time to remind the West that in the Islamic
Republic all key decisions regarding the civilian
nuclear program are made by the Supreme Leader.
Larijani actually went to Rome to meet with the
European Union's Javier Solana alongside Iran's
new negotiator, Saeed Jalili, a former member of
the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC),
just like President Mahmud Ahmadinejad.
itself, the Putin-Khamenei meeting was
extraordinary, because the Supreme Leader rarely
receives foreign statesmen for closed talks, even
one as crucial as Putin. The Russian president,
according to the diplomatic source, told the
Supreme Leader he may hold the ultimate solution
regarding the endlessly controversial Iranian
nuclear dossier. According to IRNA, the Supreme
Leader, after stressing that the Iranian civilian
nuclear program will continue unabated, said. "We
will ponder your words and proposal."
Larijani himself had told the Iranian
media that Putin had a "special plan" and the
Supreme Leader observed that the plan was
"ponderable". The problem is that Ahmadinejad
publicly denied the Russians had volunteered a new
Iranian hawks close to Ahmadinejad
are spinning that Putin's proposal involves Iran
temporarily suspending uranium enrichment in
exchange for no more United Nations sanctions.
That's essentially what International Atomic
Energy Agency chief Mohammad ElBaradei has been
working on all along. The key issue is what - in
practical terms - will Iran get in return.
Obviously it's not the EU's Solana who will have
the answer. But as far as Russia is concerned,
strategically nothing will appease it except a
political/diplomatic solution for the Iranian
US Vice President Dick
Cheney - who even Senator Hillary Clinton now
refers to as Darth Vader - must be foaming at the
mouth; but the fact is that after the Caspian
summit, Iran and Russia are officially entangled
in a strategic partnership. World War III, for
them, is definitely not on the cards.
Let's read from the same script
The apparent internal controversy on how
exactly Putin and the Supreme Leader are on the
same wavelength belies a serious rift in the
higher spheres of the Islamic Republic. The
replacement of Larijani, a realist hawk, by
Jalili, an unknown quantity with an even more
hawkish background, might spell an Ahmadinejad
victory. It's not that simple.
powerful Ali Akbar Velayati, the diplomatic
adviser to the Supreme Leader, said he didn't like
the replacement one bit. Even worse: regarding the
appalling record of the Ahmadinejad presidency
when it comes to the economy, all-out criticism is
now the norm. Another former nuclear negotiator,
Hassan Rowhani, told the Etemad-e Melli newspaper,
"The effects of the [UN] sanctions are visible.
Our situation gets worse day by day."
Ahmadinejad for the past two months has
been placing his former IRGC brothers-in-arms in
key posts, like the presidency of the central bank
and the Oil, Industry and Interior ministries.
Internal repression is rife. On Sunday, hundreds
of students protested at the Amir-Kabir University
in Tehran, calling for "Death to the dictator".
The wily, ultimate pragmatist Hashemi
Rafsanjani, now leader of the Council of Experts
and in practice a much more powerful figure than
Ahmadinejad, took no time to publicly reflect that
"we can't bend people's thoughts with dictatorial
This week, the Supreme Leader
himself intervened, saying, "I approve of this
government, but this does not mean that I approve
of everything they do." Under the currently
explosive circumstances, this also amounts to a
As if anyone needed
to be reminded, the buck - or rial - stops with
the Supreme Leader, whose last wish on earth is to
furnish a pretext for the Bush administration to
launch World War III. If Ahmadinejad now deviates
from a carefully crafted strategic script, the
Supreme Leader may simply get rid of him.