Following US President Barack Obama’s acceptance of a Russian-initiated deal to
prevent an attack on Syria, Tehran now seems to be eager for a deal of its own.
A flurry of reports over the past few days show Iranian leaders speaking of
Witnessing how easily and quickly Russia was able to mediate
a political solution that avoided Western intervention, Iran must be thinking
that it can have its cake and eat it too. If it is willing to reach a sizable
compromise on some aspects of its nuclear program, without totally dismantling
it, then it may be possible not only to put off a US attack, but also to
And even if the US balks at a deal, Tehran can use
the negotiating time to increase the pressure by further advancing or acquiring
a nuclear weapon.
The German website Spiegel Online, quoting unidentified
intelligence sources, reported that the new Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani,
is about to propose a deal that includes closing down the Fordo enrichment plant
and allowing international inspectors to observe the removal of
This comes on top of news that Rouhani has been exchanging
letters with Obama.
Meanwhile, Iran’s new nuclear energy chief has
pledged increased cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency ahead
of upcoming talks later this month.
Even Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali
Khamenei has said that he believes in “heroic flexibility,” according to a
report by the Iranian Fars News Agency on Tuesday.
“I agree with the
issue that I called ‘heroic flexibility’ some years ago, since this move is
highly good and necessary on certain occasions, but with commitment to one main
condition,” he said. Khamenei added, “A technical wrestler also shows
flexibility for technical reasons sometimes, but he would never forget who his
rival is and what his main goal is.”
So it seems “tactical flexibility”
means to serve the strategic goal of achieving nuclear weapons in order to gain
power and secure the regime against attack.
Prof. Meir Litvak of the
department of Middle Eastern history and the director for the Alliance Center of
Iranian Studies at Tel Aviv University, told The Jerusalem Post it was clear
that “Rouhani is trying to improve Iran’s relations with the West because he
must relieve the economic pressure on Iran.”
However, there remain some
open questions, he said, noting that it was unclear how much leeway Rouhani had.
“How far will Khamenei, the conservatives and the Republican Guards allow him to
Litvak went on to add that if Iran were to continue its nuclear activities
at their other sites besides Fordo, the value of closing Fordo would be
In any case, he said there were ways Iran might still be able to
develop its nuclear capabilities.
Taking a more optimistic view, Trita
Parsi, the president of the National Iranian American Council told the Post, “If
these reports are true, then it is very significant because the closure of Fordo
has been a central Western objective and the Iranians have thus far shown no
sign of flexibility on Fordo.”
“Rouhani is trying to get the world’s
attention to infuse new confidence in the negotiations, and with this proposal,
he will likely succeed,” Parsi said, adding that “the West should study this
carefully, because rejecting it out of hand will make Tehran look flexible and
the West intransigent.”
Prof. Ali Ansari of St. Andrews University in
Scotland, the founding director of the Institute for Iranian Studies, concurred
with Litvak, telling the Post that “Rouhani takes over the reins of government
at a time when Iran faces unprecedented political and economic
Ansari said that Rouhani’s priority “is to place the economy
back on a firm footing; and within this parameter his first task is to prevent,
and if possible reverse, the sanctions that have been imposed on Iran over the
last few years.”
"The first stage of this process is to redefine Iran's image abroad, not an enormously difficult task given the exceedingly low bar left by his predecessor [Mahmoud Ahmadinejad]. At the same time, the damage to Iran's international reputation is very real and it will take serious substance rather than form for his strategy to succeed," he added.