Iranian officials split over response to U.S. demands

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ANKARA (Reuters) – For all of Iran’s fierce verbal response to contemporary U.S. threats of more durable sanctions, some senior officers in Tehran imagine the door to diplomacy ought to keep open.

FILE PHOTO: Iran’s Supreme Chief Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks throughout Friday prayers in Tehran September 14, 2007. REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl/File Picture

On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo introduced an inventory of sweeping calls for for Iran, together with abandoning nuclear enrichment, its ballistic missile program and its position in Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, or face “the strongest sanctions in historical past”.

4 senior Iranian officers contacted by Reuters interpreted Pompeo’s remarks as a “bargaining technique”, much like Washington’s strategy to North Korea.

Final yr U.S. officers had been urgent for more durable sanctions in opposition to Pyongyang and despatched an plane service to the area in a present of power earlier than relations eased to a degree the place President Donald Trump might maintain talks with North Korean chief Kim Jong Un.

“America doesn’t need to become involved in one other battle within the area. Iran additionally can not afford extra financial hardship … at all times there’s a technique to attain a compromise,” mentioned one of many Iranian officers, who was concerned in Iran’s nuclear talks with main powers for 2 years.

“The period of army confrontations is over,” the official mentioned. Like others giving their views on relations with america, the official requested to not be named due to the sensitivity of the matter.

Nonetheless, it is going to be troublesome for Iran’s Supreme Chief Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to again any diplomatic resolution, as a result of doing so may undermine his credibility amongst his hardline energy base, who reject any detente with the West.

“They (Individuals) are mendacity. Even when Iran accepts all these calls for, they may proceed to demand extra. Their purpose is altering Iran’s regime,” mentioned one official who’s near Khamenei’s camp.

“Individuals can by no means be trusted. We don’t give a rattling to their threats and sanctions,” he mentioned, echoing Khamenei’s public statements.

Pompeo’s speech didn’t explicitly name for a change in management in Iran, however he urged the Iranian individuals to reject their clerical rulers.

“CUP OF POISON”

Earlier this month america withdrew from a 2015 multinational deal which restricted Iran’s nuclear program in return for lifting sanctions that had crippled the economic system.

Tehran says its proper to nuclear capabilities and its defensive missile program are non-negotiable.

However with Iran’s economic system so fragile, weakened by a long time of sanctions, corruption and mismanagement, Khamenei might but take into account diplomacy over confrontation with america.

Some insiders mentioned that, although troublesome, he may drink “the cup of poison,” as his predecessor Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini described it when he reluctantly agreed to a U.N.-mediated truce that ended the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq battle.

“For many Iranians, the economic system is the primary concern, not what Iran does within the area or the nation’s nuclear program,” mentioned a senior Western diplomat in Tehran.

“That’s the reason Iranian leaders will present some flexibility regardless of the cruel rhetoric.”

FILE PHOTO: A lady carries an image of Iran’s Supreme Chief Ayatollah Ali Khamenei at an occasion marking Resistance and Liberation Day within the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, Might 25, 2017. REUTERS/Hassan Abdallah/File Picture

TROUBLE AT HOME

It was Iran’s weak economic system that pressured Khamenei to offer tentative backing for the 2015 nuclear settlement with main powers. The deal, engineered by pragmatist President Hassan Rouhani, ended the nation’s financial and political isolation.

The institution’s core help comes from lower-income Iranians, who joined anti-government protests in January. The unrest was a reminder to authorities that they had been susceptible to in style anger fueled by financial hardship.

“In the event that they fail to handle the economic system, then the regime won’t be able to withstand the stress. It doesn’t imply it’s going to crumble, however the economic system may attain its worst ever breaking level,” mentioned Meir Javedanfar, an Iranian-born skilled on Iran on the Interdisciplinary Heart Herzliya in Israel.

European events to the nuclear deal are attempting to rescue it after Washington’s exit by conserving Iranian oil commerce and funding flowing. However they concede it is going to be troublesome.

A 3rd Iranian official mentioned he anticipated that america would finally have to just accept some stage of Iranian uranium enrichment exercise and ballistic missile work, as a result of “these are Iran’s crimson traces”.

In his speech, Pompeo tried to quash speak of battle by saying Washington would carry punishing sanctions it’s now transferring to impose, restore diplomatic and industrial ties and permit Iran to have entry to superior know-how if Washington noticed tangible shifts in Iran’s insurance policies.

“DECLARATION OF WAR”

A number of Iranian officers advised Reuters that the hardline elite, together with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), seen Pompeo’s calls for as a “declaration of battle” in opposition to Iran.

Analysts mentioned the chance of a broader battle couldn’t be dominated out, regardless of working counter to Trump’s personal acknowledged want to disentangle america from a technology of expensive conflicts within the Center East.

“If Individuals push Iran to the nook … then Iran may have no different choice however to react harshly,” mentioned Tehran-based analyst Saeed Leylaz. “That is what hawks need.”

Whereas Tehran has mentioned it might reply to any army aggression by focusing on U.S. pursuits within the area and Israel, some consultants mentioned the nation would wrestle to defend itself in opposition to a direct, multi-fronted assault.

“Iran has performed properly in proxy wars, however they can not confront Israel or the U.S. in a direct battle,” mentioned the Western diplomat. “They don’t have fashionable weapons.”

Shi’ite Muslim Iran backs President Bashar al-Assad in Syria’s civil battle, Shi’ite militias in Iraq, Houthi rebels in Yemen’s battle and Lebanon’s Hezbollah motion.

Washington’s regional allies, Sunni Gulf Arab states and Israel — staunch foes of Tehran — have all praised america’ toughening stance on Iran.

GRAPHIC: Iran’s nuclear program: tmsnrt.rs/2rvkaq6

Writing by Parisa Hafezi, Enhancing by Samia Nakhoul and Mike Collett-White

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