Attack Iran and you attack Russia
By Pepe Escobar
Times" -- -- 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 Ali Khamenei.
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.
In 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 plan.
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 nuclear dossier.
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.
The 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 regimes".
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 political bombshell.
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.
Pepe Escobar is the
Globalistan: How the Globalized World is
Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007).
He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Copyright 2007 Asia Times Online Ltd.
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