So many parts of the Iranian establishment are involved in decision-making on the country's nuclear programme that "it results in a great deal of ambiguity," says Dr Davoud Hermidas Bavand, a renowned international law expert.
Among these are the Islamic Revolutionary Guards, the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), the Foreign Ministry and the 'so-called' president.
Asked to explain, Bavand pointed out that under the Iranian constitution, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei takes the final decision on all matters, including the nuclear issue. He has the real authority and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is emasculated in his decision-making."
Yet, by his actions and rhetoric, Ahmadinejad has roused national passions, claiming that the west is denying Iran its legitimate right under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to shore up its future energy security.
But, according to Shezad Amir (name changed), by making out as if US policy was aimed at regime change, Ahmadinejad has successfully lined up powerful sections of the clerical establishment behind him.
However, after the UN Security Council passed a resolution calling on Iran to stop uranium enrichment last December, an element of sobriety has crept in.
“Even our SNSC believes that we cannot count on the support of Russia and China now,” says Mohammed Soltanifar, who is associated with the Expediency Council's Strategic Research Center. The Expediency Council advises the Supreme Leader on virtually every issue.
In mid-January, an editorial in the Jamhouri Islami, a newspaper once owned by Khamenei and ultra-conservative cleric Massih Mojaheri called on Ahmadinejad to shut up and allow the SNSC to handle the nuclear issue.
This came after the December 2006 victory of former president Akbar Hashmi Rafsanjani in the elections to the Assembly of Experts, which chooses and supervises all the work of the Supreme Leader. Rafsanjani's victory gave reformist clerics a shot in the arm.
Soltanifar said Rafsanjani and his aide Hassan Rowhani, a former head of the SNSC, were trying to push for a diplomatic settlement of the nuclear issue. “Rowhani sees the nuclear confrontation as having degenerated into a ‘Bush versus Ahmadinejad’ confrontation,” he said. “He feels that Iran could have made progress in the nuclear area without antagonising the west.”
Those like Amir, who argues that Iran's nuclear policy is in the ultimate analysis about “preventing regime change,” do imply the weapon content of the Iranian programme. But others like Soltanifar say there are no reasons to doubt Iran's programme since "it has always been, and remains, under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency".
Iranians maintain that Imam Ruhollah Khomeini had prohibited the use of weapons of mass destruction. The bottom line, says Bavand, is that the nuclear issue is about politics, not legality. "All Chapter VII UN resolutions are inherently political," he added.
“They have concentrated on (some alleged) ‘intention’ of Iran, without providing any evidence,” he complained. The people of Iran are interested in resolving the nuclear issue even if the government has mismanaged it and sounds like a “broken record.”
Email Manoj Joshi: mjoshi @hindustantimes.com