Has Iran’s Leader Revamped Nuclear Diplomacy under Military Coup Threat?
Six-power nuclear diplomacy with Iran appears to have run out of steam since it reached its first station in Geneva on Nov. 24, 2013.
Has this happened as a result of Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei being prodded and pushed ever since by the hard-line Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) to strip President Hassan Rouhani of the authority for leading the negotiations?
Although Khamenei initially endorsed international diplomacy and praised the Geneva nuclear accord, he may now have switched direction and decided to pander to the hard-line opposition by giving them more say in the diplomatic process.
If so – and this is not absolutely confirmed by DEBKA Weekly’s intelligence and Iranian sources – the interim nuclear accord signed in Geneva on Nov. 24, 2013, may mark the end of that road.
That is not to say that low-level technical discussions on implementation won’t go on. But the six powers led by the US will soon find that they have nowhere to go – certainly not forward to the promised six-month nuclear freeze – because no one in Tehran will implement the decisions they reached – certainly so long as no starting dateline as been set for the Geneva accord to take effect.
An important factor at work appears to be Ayatollah Khamenei’s’s state of mind.
Khamenei assigns nuclear diplomacy strategy to a triumvirate
For the first time in the 25 years since he was appointed supreme leader in 1989, the Ayatollah changes his mind every few days and seems to have trouble sticking to any clear course. In other words, Khamenei’s faculties and grip on power are slipping.
Our Iranian sources believe he is weighed down by the burden of the fierce internal struggle in Tehran over the Geneva agreement and the future of engaging in US-led nuclear diplomacy.
Some of our Iranian sources report that Khamenei, faced by the threat of a military coup by the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), capitulated and changed direction.
The new directive he issued re-assigned future nuclear negotiating strategy to a triumvirate of President Rouhani, Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani and his brother, Sadeq Amole-Larijani, who is chairman of Iran’s judiciary. The brothers have never voiced an opinion on the Geneva accord. This trio’s recommended policy lines are to be submitted to Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the National Security Council and himself a former tough nuclear negotiator with the West. He will be responsible for filling in the strategy’s details for implementation.
President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammed Jawad Zarif, who led the Iranian team in Geneva, were furious. On its website this week, the Foreign Ministry announced it would not obey the new rules – an unheard-of act of defiance against the supreme leader of Revolutionary Islamic Iran.
Radical lawmaker: Iran needs a nuke for balance of terror with Israel
The next day, the same web site carried a statement explaining that a mistake had occurred in preparing the site’s content and the Foreign Ministry had no thought of disobeying the Iranian leadership’s edicts.
But the president’s bureau chose to insist that no new instructions had been received on the nuclear issue. Even Alaeddin Boroujerdi, Chairman of the Majlis Foreign Affairs and Security Committee, who is known to object to the Geneva accord, denied knowledge of any new directives.
All the same, the Revolutionary Guards appear to have obtained the upper hand in the controversy, judging from two statements.
One was a speech delivered Thursday, Jan. 3 by the radical lawmaker Mohammad Nabavian at a political activists’ conference in Mashad.
“Although Iran is not interested in having the bomb, it does in fact need one for a balance of terror with Israel,” said Nabavian, who is a member of the radical Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi MesbahYazdi's faction.
He went on to elaborate:” The [nuclear] agreement [with the P5+1] contains five clauses: a preamble, first step, interim step, final step and final conclusion.
“The first part determined from the outset that the objective of the negotiations was to reach a plan that would guarantee to both sides that Iran's nuclear program is purely civilian… “ said the Iranian lawmaker and went on to postulate an American comment as he understood it:
IRGC General says Iran places its trust in shehada – not agreements
“The US says: 'Never before had we been able to ensure Israel's security as we have today [by means of the agreement]. If a certain country has 270 kg of enriched uranium at a level of 20% and 10 tons [of enriched uranium] at a level of 5%, and 20,000 centrifuges, it will be in a breakout position and could manufacture a nuclear bomb on the uranium [track] within two weeks.'
The radical lawmaker then responded to the comment he placed in American mouths by saying: “We don't aspire to obtain a nuclear bomb, but it is necessary so that we can put Israel in its place.”
Nabavian was not deterred by all the evidence to the contrary from parroting the standard Iranian contention that Tehran has no interest in a nuclear weapon.
The second revealing statement came from Dep. IRGC Chief Gen. Hossein Salami, who asserted in an address to a large group of fighters Tuesday, Jan. 7: “Iran’s way does not go through agreements. Our path is that of shehada and mighty resistance.”
Although he did not refer explicitly to the Geneva accord, the general’s meaning was clear, especially when he added: “We don’t place our trust in foreigners, and we never will.”
The Iranian general’s words clearly point the way to his country opting to keep up the military tension and adamantly refusing to make any concessions on its nuclear program, even for the sake of sanctions relief.