Iran Under Pressure

Although hardly “crippling” its regime, the sanctions imposed upon Iran by the United Nations, Europe and the United States for its illegitimate nuclear program appear to have some effect at isolating the country.

Brazil and Turkey approached Iran earlier this year to negotiate and reached a nuclear fuel exchange agreement in May under which Iran pledged to deposit 1,200 kilograms of 3.5 percent enriched uranium in Turkey in exchange for 120 kilograms of 20 percent enriched uranium to be provided by the Nuclear Suppliers Group; in effect, France, Russia and the United States. The West was skeptical though and feared that Iran might just be stalling. It went ahead with sanctions in spite of Brazil’s and Turkey’s diplomacy.

On Monday, Iran announced that it was prepared to resume negotiations about a nuclear fuel exchange deal “without conditions” mere days after European officials agreed to a fresh round of unilateral sanctions. The European Union’s foreign affairs chief, Baroness Catherine Ashton, welcomed the Iranian initiative.

While Iran is trying to convince Brussels that this time will be different, it’s losing the shreds of sympathy it still had with Moscow. After Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad alleged this weekend that the Kremlin was taking its cue from Western powers in an effort to isolate Iran, the Russian Foreign Ministry formally condemned his remarks, describing them as “unacceptable” and “irresponsible.” Russia long opposed UN sanctions against Iran but gave way in May under American pressure.

Iran itself meanwhile is deteriorating into a military dictatorship. Having successfully suppressed the widespread opposition that ensued from last year’s disputed presidential election, Ahmadinejad and his allies in the Revolutionary Guard are now set to oust the conservative elements from the regime which have accused him of pursuing an “extremist” agenda.

Clerics and parliamentarians from the older generation, who were part of the Islamic Revolution of 1979, fear that Ahmadinejad is squandering religious principles in favor of a messianic cult that rejects the intermediary role of the clergy. Ahmadinejad has referred to the divide among conservatives, warning that “the regime has only one party” while his supporters refer to the opposition in parliament as a “conspiracy” — the same rhetoric that was deployed during last year’s protests.