Sunday, October 21, 2007

Larijani Resigns: Hard-Liners Ascendant

Mr. Ali Larijani, the principal Iranian nuclear negotiator, in his capacity as "Supreme National Security Council (SNSC)" secretary, has resigned his post. Tehran Times says that Mr. Larijani has offered his resignation many times before, "but only this time the president [that is, Mad Jad Ahmadinejad] accepted it." (As an aside, it's interesting that an Iranian publication directed at an English-speaking audience would give that kind of hint about cross-purposes at the top of the Iranian pyramid).
Probably, this means nothing good. Given President Bush's warning about the possibility of a nuclear-armed Iran producing World War III, a re-think of Iran's nuclear aspirations would seem to be in order. Mr. Larijani's resignation seems like a good opportunity to change course, but unfortunately this doesn't seem to be in the offing: government spokesman Gholam-Hossein Elham told the Tehran Times that the resignation will not affect Iran's "principled" nuclear policy.
Scott Peterson, writing in the Christian Science Monitor thinks that Mr. Larijani's departure means the ascendancy of Mad Jad's political faction, and a harder line towards the US and Europe. Mr. Larijani's successor is one Saeed Jalili, a Deputy Foreign Minister, described in the Christian Science Monitor article as an ally of Ahmadinejad's; a "hard line dogmatist" who "specializes in monologue" in debate. With commendable understatement, Mr. Peterson tells us that Mr. Jalili's selection is "not likely to produce a breakthrough" in the nuclear negotiations.
Well, no wonder the Iranians are taking a hard line. Why the hell shouldn't they ? Mr. Putin's just gotten back from bucking them up: encouraging Mad Jad and the lunatic fringe with all the growling at the various stans around the Caspian, in what Russia calls the near-abroad -- not to help the Americans against Iran. Meanwhile, here at home we have Cloud-Cuckoo-Land: Ms. Pelosi and crew knocking the props from under the US position in Iraq by antagonizing the Turks over events in 1915, and sniping at the intelligence agencies. To our enemies, the children have taken over.
The problem with the Iranian math is, as I have said before, George Bush. This president is one real bad piece of luck for the Iranians, which gets worse for them as a Democratic president looks more likely in 2008. I don't think that he is going to leave Iran for the next administration to deal with. The Iranians seem to think that Bush is too isolated domestically and internationally to stop them, and that they have at least rhetorical support from powerful allies. The problem is, isolation has a history of not fazing President Bush. The Iranians are hard-lining themselves, and the rest of us, straight to disaster.

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