It would be a mistake for Western seekers of diplomatic engagement with Tehran – rather than armed confrontation – to assume that Ali Larijani, who was elected Speaker of the Iranian parliament, the majlis, May 28, will be easy to talk to about his country’s nuclear program.
As longtime senior Iranian nuclear negotiator with the West and the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, he was seen as a pragmatic and moderate voice in the Islamic Republic’s leadership. This impression was strengthened last year when the extremist president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had him booted out of the job and replaced with the hardline deputy foreign minister Saeed Jalili.
Larijani landed on his feet as national security adviser, by virtue of his influence on the supreme ruler Ayatollah Alil Khamenei.
He is one of the many Iranian high-ups who consider Ahmadinejad overly extremist and a menace to national external and internal interests. Larijani is preparing to run against Ahmadinejad for the presidency next year.
At the same time, Larijani fully shares the president’s conviction that it is Iran’s bounden duty to acquire nuclear arms. While agreeing on the ultimate goal, the two men differ on the ways to achieve it and sell it to the world, without incurring an American or Israeli assault.
In this internal dispute, Ahmadinejad has the upper hand.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Iran sources disclosed how this happened.
During the years in which Larijani served as senior nuclear diplomat, Iran’s progress in uranium enrichment and other nuclear processes was held down to a snail’s pace by the restrictions he undertook in negotiations with Western governments and the IAEA. From the time he was sacked, the brakes were off and the program has zipped ahead as never before, with no more interference from its Western antagonists.
Syria‘s missile corps falls under IRGC command
So astonished was the supreme ruler by the speedy progress, that he recently heaped pubic praise on the president, such as never before, for his personal devotion to the program.
For this reason, DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s Iran sources believe that Larijani’s election as Speaker with Khamenei’s blessing is unrelated to the nuclear program, but rather a matter concerning internal equilibrium in the supreme ruler’s inner circle of advisers.
Recent events confirm this:
The commander of the powerful Revolutionary Guards, Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, disclosed on May 25 that the IRGC was planning to create an independent command to fortify the structure and activities of the national missile program. This measure, he said, would be subject to the approval of the supreme ruler, who is commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s intelligence sources disclose the background prompting this step:
First, the development of the missiles destined to deliver nuclear warheads is so advanced that a separate command is needed to handle the project.
Second, a week ago, Khamenei earmarked $800 million for developing intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Third, the new command will also embrace Syria’s missile systems, an arrangement settled in the talks held by Syrian defense minister Gen. Hassan Turkmani in Tehran last week, at the head of a large delegation.
All these advances culminated in Larijani’s strong inaugural speech in the Iranian parliament on May 28, in which he attacked the IAEA in Vienna and said Tehran might cut all its ties with the nuclear watchdog.
On the nuclear question, therefore, the new Speaker sings clearly in unison with his rival, Ahmadinejad.