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Administration and Leader's Office Fight Over Nuclear Talks: A Decision to Remove Ahmadinejad?

By Arash Bahmani, Rooz Online

As the next round of talks between Iran and the international community approaches, the battle between Ahmadinejad’s supporters and those of ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s leader, reaches new heights. While the supporters of the supreme leader support the upcoming talks scheduled for May 23 to be held in Baghdad, the media close to the administration has interpreted the talks to be a decision to remove Ahmadinejad from office.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

The first round of talks this year was held on April 14, after a 15 month lapse between the so-called P5+1 group and Iran in Istanbul. Both sides called the talks positive and constructive and announced their readiness for a second round in Baghdad in May.

Supporters of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has written in Iran, the government mouthpiece that the Istanbul talks were guided by Hashemi Rafsanjani and his allies with the purpose of putting aside Ahmadinejad from the talks. In its most recent response to the talks the newspaper criticized those who looked at the talks hopefully and reminded its readers that according to the orders of the leader the problems stemming from international sanctions should not have been discussed.

But the response of the principlists, the ideologues who support ayatollah Khamenei, have resulted in a new round of verbal exchanges between the two main ruling factions. In recent weeks, some officials had expressly said that the economic sanctions had deteriorated the economic conditions in the country.

These groups believe that the failure of the talks in Baghdad can result in an economic catastrophe and criticized Ahmadinejad’s administration for not properly directing the talks.

Responses to the first round of talks between the P5+1 group and Iran with the hope of rolling back the international sanctions against Iran come as officials had continued to proclaim that the international sanctions had no impact on the country since new and harsher international sanctions were implemented against the country last summer. These claims were augmented by Iran’s insistence on continuing its nuclear stance.

Now, with some conciliatory remarks from those around the supreme leader and his personal supportive remarks, many analysts attribute the change in tone in Tehran to be because of the economic pressures on the country.

Just a few days after the conclusion of the Istanbul talks, officials of the Islamic republic announced that they would pursue the relaxation of international sanctions as their goal in the next round of talks in Baghdad. The US and its European allies however have said that they have not made any such promises to the Islamic republic. At the same time, Israel’s defense minister Ehud Barak has reiterated that Israel does not commit not to attack Iran.

Speaking at a press conference after the Istanbul talks, Saeed Jalili, the secretary general of Iran’s national security council had said that Iran’s goal was to get the sanctions against the country lifted. This was supported by some Majlis representatives as well.

Allaeddin Borujerdi, the head of the national security committee of the Majlis and Hossein Ibrahimi another member of the same committee said that the goal of the next round of talks in Baghdad would be lift the sanctions.

But despite these calls by Iranian officials, Western countries have followed a different direction. Democrat senators in the US for example, have been recently calling for more sanctions against Iran to pressure the country to give up its nuclear program. The Europeans too have said that until Iran takes steps to meet the demands of the international community regarding their nuclear concerns, sanctions against Iran would not be eased.

In its main editorial, Kayhan newspaper recently wrote that the P5+1 group of countries were ready to provide great “concession” to Iran, which if not fulfilled would jeopardize the next round of talks.

Newspapers close to the administration on the other hand have kept their distance from the talks, while reporting on developments related to them.


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