Ahmadinejad’s announcement that Iran has accepted the U.N. offer to enrich some of its uranium will reduce considerable pressure building up against the regime, for the time being.
The United States, which has been trying hard to convince its allies, as well as Russia and China, to impose tough sanctions on Iran, will now have to rethink its strategy. Sanctioning companies selling gasoline to Iran, as demanded in a bill close to ratification in Congress, may also have to be put on hold.
Meanwhile the threat of military action by Israel may also subside, although given Tel Aviv’s long-term fear of Iran’s nuclear program, that could be wishful thinking.
By accepting the U.N. terms the Islamic Republic will now also be seen as cooperating with the international community rather than continuing to be seen as a belligerent rogue state.
Ahmadinejad can put on a smile and make a big speech on 22 Bahman bragging about how he has played the world powers and come out victorious.
But nothing is that easy or pretty when it comes to the Islamic Republic. Diplomacy for this regime has a very different purpose than what the rest of the world is used to. Nothing is clear or straightforward and promises can be (and most likely will) be modified or withdrawn in the days and weeks ahead.
The biggest problem is that the regime does not operate with common sense and pragmatism. Decisions are made not through consensus among the best minds in the country, but by a small circle of autocratic, defensive, xenophobic leaders headed by Khamenei, who is desperately trying to crush the biggest domestic threat to his reign and save the very existence of a widely hated theocracy.
And despite Ahmadinejad’s cheerful announcement, many within the regime will not be smiling. He even mentioned that some officials do not trust the U.N. and doubt that Iran would be handed enriched uranium.
Confrontation, particularly with the west, is what this regime thrives on. A compromise is bound to anger the hardliners who have constantly opposed any deal. I can hear them asking, “Is this the great news you had promised on the anniversary of the glorious revolution? Compromise with our enemies?”
When Khomeini finally agreed to a ceasefire after eight years of a futile and devastating war with Iraq, he likened it to drinking poison. What he was alluding to was that for the entire course of the war he and the rest of the leadership had vowed that the Islamic Republic would never ever ever rest until Saddam Hossein was punished for invading Iran.
Suddenly the weight of reality had forced Khomeini to surrender. Suddenly all his daily uncompromising speeches, all those “War War Until Victory” slogans rang hollow. He had led hundreds of thousands of young men to their deaths, seen the destruction of much of the country’s military and economic infrastructure, sent thousands of young men and women to the gallows for their opposition to the regime, and gotten little satisfaction in return. The tremendous sense of guilt and shame was the poison that killed him less than a year later.
Now the Islamic Republic has again swallowed poison in the face of enormous international pressure and domestic upheaval. Suddenly it is bowing to the U.N. after years of insisting that it would never ever ever compromise over its enrichment program.
Will this poison be as potent as the one that knocked out Khoemini? Time will tell. What’s certain is that it will cause much anger and confusion within the regime and leave it vulnerable to attacks by the opposition who will point out to capitulation from the position of utter weakness.