Conservatives challenge Ahmadinejad's diplomacy tactics

Criticism follows sanctions on Iran for refusing to halt uranium enrichment.

ahmadinejad snow 298 (photo credit: AP)
ahmadinejad snow 298
(photo credit: AP)
Conservatives and reformists are openly challenging President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's hard-line nuclear diplomacy tactics, with many saying his provocative remarks are doing more harm than good. The unprecedented criticism comes after the UN Security Council imposed sanctions on Iran last month for refusing to halt uranium enrichment. Some critics view the sanctions as proof that Iran must change its policy. The disapproval even has some Parliament lawmakers considering impeaching Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki if further Security Council resolutions are issued against Iran. "That all 15 members of the Security Council unanimously voted, against the claim by our diplomatic apparatus that there was no unanimity against Iran, shows the weakness of our diplomatic apparatus," lawmaker Noureddin Pirmoazzen said. Ahmadinejad's popularity already was weakened after his close allies suffered a humiliating defeat last month in local elections, which were widely seen as a referendum on his 18 months in power. He left Friday for a visit to Latin America to meet anti-US leaders - his second such visit in four months. Critics say the trip was partly aimed at diverting attention from disapproval over his diplomacy at home. Despite the criticism, the hard-line leader has remained defiant, sharply escalating Teheran's standoff with the United States and its allies over Iran's controversial nuclear activities. He has repeatedly refused to suspend enrichment, even as its trade allies including China have requested Teheran respond to international demands, and has given the topic top priority in numerous speeches over the past month during provincial visits. His tactics have angered critics on both sides of Iran's political spectrum. "That Your Excellency talks about nuclear energy in all cities and in all your speeches doesn't seem to be a correct publicity strategy. ... Your language is so offensive and contains not very nice words that inculcates that the nuclear issue is being dealt with a sort of stubbornness," the hard-line daily Jomhuri-e-Eslami said in a recent editorial. The daily Aftab-e-Yazb, a reformist paper, said the nuclear policy was hurting Iran's ability to gain nuclear technology. "Positive achievements of getting access (to nuclear technology) and negative consequences resulting from lack of wisdom at the stage of pursuing it is not hidden to any body. ... Some current leaders act as if any person criticizing (the government) is an agent of the enemy," the paper said in a front-page commentary Saturday. The Security Council on Dec. 23 voted unanimously to impose sanctions on Iran for refusing to halt enrichment - a process that produces the material for either nuclear reactors or bombs. The US and its allies accuse Iran of secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons, an allegation Teheran denies. After staying silent over the past year, reformists have been voicing their desire for Iran to dispel fears that it's seeking to build atomic weapons and are asking that the country return to suspending enrichment, the policy under former President Mohammad Khatami. The Islamic Iran Participation Front, Iran's largest reformist party, said consensus at the Security Council showed Ahmadinejad's government was unable to correctly handle the nuclear dossier. "Given that resisting the UN Security Council resolution will put us in a more isolated position ... it is recommended that previous policies be enforced to avoid more harms that could not be compensated," the party said in a statement. "The path of dialogue together with suspension (of nuclear activities) with the aim of returning the nuclear dossier back to the International Atomic Energy Agency can get our country out of crisis," it added. Ahmadinejad also has sparked international outrage for his comments against Israel and for hosting a conference last month that caste doubt on the Holocaust. The hard-line stance is believed to have divided the conservative base that voted him to the presidency, with many feeling he has spent too much time defying the West and too little time tackling Iran's domestic issues. "The sanctions imposed on Iran is believed were partly due to Ahmadinejad's anti-Israel rhetoric and the Holocaust conference. Many of the country's leaders are being convinced that Ahmadinejad's rhetoric is harming Iran," said political analyst Iraj Jamshidi. His diplomacy tactics also are turning Iran's nuclear program, a source of national pride, into a source of dispute, Jamshidi said. "Ahmadinejad made two major claims in his presidential campaign: to bring oil revenues to the kitchen of every Iranian family and to protect Iran's nuclear achievements. He failed in both," he said. Esmaeil Gerami Moghaddam, a reformist lawmaker, said even the people who voted for Ahmadinejad in 2005 are gradually losing hope. "People are now openly showing their dissatisfaction even when Ahmadinejad visits provincial cities. ... The president's nuclear and domestic policies need to be altered," he said.