Why Iran Backed Out of a Nuclear Deal

Yesterday, the New York Times published an illuminating news analysis article by Michael Slackman in which he discusses domestic politics in Iran and its relations to the nuclear issue http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/03/world/middleeast/03iran.html?ref=global-home). 

Last month, Iran tentatively agreed to a deal with the West and Russia over its nuclear program but then backed away from it before anything was signed.  The deal would require Iran to ship most of its uranium out of the country for it be enriched and then returned to the Islamic Republic for use in a research reactor.  The measure was designed to ease Western concerns that Iran will use its stockpile of uranium to build nuclear weapons, and it would do so by preventing Iran from enriching its uranium to weapons-grade levels.  The Islamic Republic denies that it seeks to acquire the Bomb.

Mr. Slackman argues that reformists and traditional conservatives oppose the nuclear deal because Mr. Ahmadinejad supports it.  He says that they are trying to turn public opinion against him for their own political advantage.

Mr. Slackman offers some interesting insights, but he seems to underestimate the degree to which many Iranian leaders believe that maintaining the capability of building nuclear weapons is critical for Iran’s national security.  It may be true that some public figures see political benefits in undermining the Iranian president, who won the last presidential election amid widespread complaints of voting fraud, but Iranian security concerns and perceptions of national interests should not be discounted.

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