Presidents Putin, Chavez and the retired Fidel Castro have expressed varying degrees of support for President Obama’s re-election; now it looks as if the mullahs in Iran are casting their vote. According to the Guardian, Iran is making a goodwill gesture on the eve of the American presidential election:
Iran has suspended the enrichment of uranium stockpiles to the 20% purity needed to bring it a short step from building a nuclear device, news services in the region have reported.
Mohammad Hossein Asfari, a member of parliament responsible for foreign policy and national security, was quoted as saying that the move was a “goodwill” gesture, aimed at softening Iran’s position before a new round of scheduled talks with the United States after this week’s presidential elections.
As with so much that is said in Tehran we will have to wait to see how seriously to take this announcement, but floating the news 72 hours before presidential elections in the United States has to be seen as a goodwill gesture from Iran to the incumbent. It’s possible the Iranian leadership still regrets the way that its refusal to make concessions on the hostage issue to Jimmy Carter helped elect Ronald Reagan in 1980; despite the tough line from the Obama administration on the Iranian nuclear program the mullahs may hope that it will be easier to deal with the current White House team than with the Republican foreign policy mavens eager to replace them.
Iran’s attempt to block Mitt Romney (whose pro-Israel rhetoric can’t have endeared him to the mullahs) from the White House won’t come to much; most Americans are deeply skeptical of Iran’s intentions the timing of the announcement is too crude to help. Americans are making up their minds in the presidential race without taking Iranian preferences into account. The step is more a publicity stunt than a serious opening; the proposed halt in enrichment is only good for a couple of weeks and nothing was said about Iran’s continuing push to increase the numbers of centrifuges that can speed up its enrichment process.
It will be interesting to see what the Obama campaign does with this news. Will it hold up the concession as a sign that administration policy is producing a safer and more stable Middle East, or will it treat the Iranian announcement as an irrelevant publicity stunt?
Interesting times. As we’ve said more than once, President Obama is in our view far more likely to end up in a war with Iran than many of his supporters as well as his critics think. Iran’s mullahs may end up quite disappointed with his second term.
UPDATE: 5:18 AM The above story noted that we would have to wait and see before it was clear how seriously we could take the announcement of a halt in enrichment. Sure enough, early this morning the regime-backed Fars News Agency i posted a story in which an ‘informed source’ denies the earlier report of a halt to uranium enrichment, quoting the source as saying “20 percent uranium enrichment activities continue as before and no change has happened.”
This pattern of conflicting accounts is sometimes produced by the factionalism that is a characteristic of Iranian politics under mullahcracy and sometimes deliberately used to confuse foreign opinion.