January 03, 2008

An American in Iran

Abu Muqawama doesn't usually post much on Iran, but he just read Max Rodenbeck's long letter from Tehran which ran in the NYRB and thought it good enough to pass along. Max is the Economist's main man in the Middle East.

What is debated, heatedly, in the corridors of power, I was told, is how best to deal with international opposition to Iran's nuclear project. Opinions divide fairly neatly between the country's three main political camps. The reformists, who held sway during the 1997– 2005 tenure of President Mohammad Khatami, believe Iran has little to lose from bowing to the UN Security Council's demand to suspend nuclear enrichment, at least temporarily. Conservative pragmatists, such as those grouped around another former president, Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, call for mixing toughness and flexibility, negotiating with other nations to secure Iran's goals while minimizing potential damage from trade and other sanctions. Ahmadinejad's usulgaran, for their part, appear to believe that Iran should brave out the storm without bending, raising the stakes to increase their leverage on other issues, such as pushing for an American withdrawal from Iraq. International pressure, as they see it, only helps mobilize domestic opinion behind the President. And besides, the hostile West would only greet any concession with demands for more.