TEL AVIV — Today — April 9, the 20th day in the Persian month of Farvardin — is Nuclear Day in Iran. It is expected that Ahmadinejad will make an announcement regarding progress made in Iran's quest to enrich uranium. This could be a lot of things. One of them is that Iran has managed to successfully install 3000 centrifuges. No one knows for sure.
What is certain is that Ahmadinejad needs to reinforce his position inside Iran, which has been weakened by the release of the soldiers. The decision to release the British soldiers was not his. It was made over his head by Ayatollah Khamenei.
At the very least, Ahmadinejad would have liked to have seen the British apologise for the recent spat, but he did not get that. To make matters worst, the timing of the announcement of the soldier's release has caused him further headaches and embarrassment, especially in front of reformists. On Tuesday April 3rd, Tony Blair said that “The next 48 hours will be fairly critical”. Many in Iran interpreted that as an ultimatum. Right wing pro Ahmadinejad news agencies lambasted Tony Blair for acting like a “colonialist bully”, and in stated that Iran does not give into threats and ultimatums, as proven by its nuclear program.
However they were shocked to see their president, the man who promised to stand up to the West, announce the release of the soldiers 24 hours after the “ultimatum” was issued. Ahmadinejad's announcement left them high and dry. Here they were, calling for the soldiers to be tried soon after they were arrested. Some of them called for the British soldiers to be imprisoned and even shot. Now all of a sudden they had to justify the actions of the President whose line they had so loyally defended. This was done reluctantly and grudgingly.
There is also Ali Larijani. His stock has been rising, both with Western governments with whom he negotiated during this affair, and Ayatollah Khamenei. It was him who consulted and convinced Ayatollah Khamenei that the soldiers should be released, before too much damage is done to Iran's position in the UN, and the IAEA. At the end, Khamenei listened to him, against Ahmadinejad's opinion and beliefs.
Ahmadinejad realizes this, and is looking to save face. Its bad enough that his popularity is falling with the people of Iran, over the last few days, the same has happened with some of his own supporters, and one could even say with Ayatollah Khamenei.
Nuclear day is a very timely opportunity for Ahmadinejad to make up for lost political ground. He will try to get as much out of the occasion as possible.
About Meir Javedanfar is an Iranian-born Middle East Analyst and the Director or the Middle East Economic and Political Analysis Company, meepas.com. He has been quoted and interviewed by the BBC, Radio Holland International, Haaretz Newspaper and the Boston Globe as well as a number of other newspapers and Radio stations. For rights to quote this article please contact email@example.com.