Tehran shows a deadpan face to the world's condemnation of its nuclear plans – while pressing ahead regardless towards its goal. These days, the ayatollahs have gone cold on dialogue with Washington. If the incoming US president Barack Obama wants talks, they say, he must first accept Iran's standing as the leading regional power and treat Tehran accordingly. This means that Tehran's American partner in dialogue can be no less than the president.
If these terms are met, the Iranians are prepared to be helpful to the United States on such thorny problems as the Afghanistan War. However, more America-bashing is heard from Tehran these days than words of friendship, a bad omen for the prospective talks.
Sunday, Dec. 21, Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, holder of the powerful office of chairman of Iran's expediency Council, referred to talks the major powers had held with Arab governments on the Iranian nuclear program as a “new conspiracy.”
He was referring to the discussions on the sidelines of the UN Security Council two weeks ago between the P5-1 (the group the US, UK, France, Germany, Russia and China formed to persuade Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment production) and Arab foreign ministers. The two sides agreed to confer regularly on efforts to resolve the dispute over Iran's nuclear activities.
Then, on Dec. 22, Gen. Hasan Firuzabadi, supreme commander of all Iran's armed forces including the Revolutionary Guards, condemned the “activities of the Americans and their British pawns.” In a put-down for domestic political circles encouraged by Obama's advisers' high expectations of direct engagement, Firuzabadi condemned those influenced by the “line of compromise with Britain and America,” who are “happy and play tambourines around messages sent and received.”
He called American messages “the plague that threatens the revolution today…”
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's Iranian sources comment that the supreme commander's sentiments could only have come from a personal briefing by the supreme ruler Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who himself declared two weeks ago: “A deep gulf yawns between us and the United States and a profound reckoning.”
Tehran's actions match the words of its spokesmen.
It is running full tilt ahead with preparations for a military attack by the United States and Israel, on the assumption that talks with Obama are likely to fall at the first stile or fail to take off at all.
Tehran will never accept the three-month or any other timeline set by Washington for these talks to produce results. If Washington stands by its predetermined deadline, then the talks will not begin.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's Gulf experts report that the United States is likely to find both the Russian and Iranian standpoints hard to swallow.
Co-opting Moscow to negotiations with Tehran and accepting Iran's leading regional power status would place Russian hands for the first time on the levers determining America's energy polices and the way it plays its alliances in the Persian Gulf. Furthermore, crowning Tehran top dog of the region would downgrade America's foremost allies, Saudi Arabia and Israel.
For the time being, president-elect Obama has no such plans.