October 20, 2007

Larijani Resigns

Top Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani has resigned from the government, effective immediately. Larijani apparently had significant differences with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on strategy in dealing with the West, and his departure might signal a split in Teheran that could mean trouble for the mullahcracy and their diminutive mouthpiece:

Iran's chief negotiator with the West over Tehran's nuclear programme, Ali Larijani, has resigned.

A government spokesman said Mr Larijani had repeatedly offered his resignation and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had finally accepted it.

Mr Larijani had differences with the president over how to proceed with the negotiations, correspondents say. ...

Mr Larijani has favoured further negotiations with the West over Iran's uranium enrichment programme, as opposed to the president's more hard-line approach, our correspondent says.

The resignation allows the mullahs to promote deputy foreign minister Saeed Jalili in his place. Jalili is known to be a closer associate of Ayatollah Ali Khameini, which indicates that the mullahs want a tighter grip on the strategy of confrontation. It signals a hardening of position on the part of the Iranians and a move away from engagement.

This could cause them more problems domestically, however. Larijani has carried the banner for Iranian nuclear research for years, and the Iranian people have responded with support for the nuclear effort -- but not for confrontation with the West. Iranians support nuclear power, not nuclear weapons, and want a negotiated end to the standoff and the crippling sanctions. Replacing Larijani with Jalili guarantees that the standoff will not just continue but worsen.

It also clarifies the situation for the West. The Iranians have no interest in negotiations or compromises. They want their nuclear weapons, and will not brook any interference with acquiring them. Larijani's departure demonstrates that even more clearly than the mullah's choice of successor. Time is running short to get this information to the Iranian people and to bolster their efforts to remove the mullahs before war becomes the only option.


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