Power Struggle in Iran Clouds View of Nuclear Intentions

CAIRO — Until Iran’s current political crisis, Iranian experts largely agreed that the Islamic republic wanted to develop the capacity to build nuclear weapons, without actually producing them.

Now, not everyone is so sure.

The main reason for the shift in thinking is the rise of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as the most powerful decision-making bloc in the country. But the change is also a result of the political struggle among the elite, which has upended previous assessments about Iran’s decision-making process, silenced more pragmatic voices and made it nearly impossible for anyone to support nuclear cooperation without being accused of capitulating to the West.

This move toward a harder line has stymied President Obama’s attempts to open a new channel of communication with the Iranian leadership. And now, having set a year-end deadline for Iran to cooperate, the United States and its Western allies seem likely to seek to impose tougher sanctions on Iran, a step that some analysts fear could enable the more radical forces to monopolize power, at least in the short term.

“A Revolutionary Guards-dominated state that we have witnessed since the presidential election has proven to be a lot less prudent, and a whole lot more violent, than what was the ordinary behavior of the Islamic Republic of Iran before,” said Rasool Nafisi, an Iran researcher in Virginia who co-wrote a report on the Revolutionary Guards for the RAND Cor… >>>

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