By Claude Salhani, UPI International Editor
The United Press International – Middle East analysts will be burning the midnight oil for the next few days, trying to decide if the letter sent by Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to President George W. Bush represents a bold step by the conservative president of the Islamic republic; if it should be interpreted as a sign of weakness; or if it has ulterior motives.
"Ahmadinejad’s letter to President Bush is an 11th hour ploy to evade United Nations Security Council sanctions and to buy time, while Iran speeds enriching uranium," Alireza Jafarzadeh, president of Strategic Policy Consulting and a former Washington spokesman for Iran’s parliament in exile, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, told United Press International.
"The United States should not be beguiled by the masters of deception and evasion in Tehran," said Jafarzadeh, referring to the current regime.
Other observers, however, believe the letter is an effort by the Iranian president who hopes to defuse the rising tension between his country and the United States as the White House and its European allies have been working all angles to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear capability. In any case, this is a highly unusual step for the president of the Islamic republic, with whom the United States has had no diplomatic relations since 1980.
One explanation could be that Iran is trying to preempt an attack on its nuclear facilities. There have been abundant rumors circulating around Washington over the past few weeks of the possibility of an attack on Iran by the United States. However, a far more likely scenario would be an attack by Israel on potential Iranian nuclear sites, rather than one by American forces.
Israel, who is the most threatened by a nuclear-armed Iran, has far more incentive to take out Iran’s nuclear capability than anyone else. Israel also has all the equipment and technology as well as the hardware and the training to carry out such an operation. Furthermore, Israel could go ahead with a strike on Iran without having to worry too much about the political repercussions of such an action. Dealing with the political fallout is something that the United States would have to deal with.
Another explanation can be found in the timing of the Iranian letter. It comes as the United Nations Security Council is about to consider a draft resolution to impose sanctions on Iran for failing to heed the calls of the International Atomic Energy Agency. But the very fact that Iran has sent the American president a letter muddles the cards simply by buying Iran more time — a very precious commodity in this instance.
Even though the contents of the letter were deemed irrelevant by the Bush administration, it threatens to delay U.N. proceedings simply by its existence. Iran can claim it was making an overture to Washington and that the letter was written in good faith. This is something the U.N. will have to take under consideration. And that means wasted time, time during which Iran can move ahead with its program.
Meanwhile, Iran wants to avoid international sanctions. The Islamic republic has been referred to the United Nations Security Council as efforts by Western powers continue to try and get it to give up its nuclear ambitions.
While President Bush said he would prefer a diplomatic solution to the current crisis over Iran’s nukes, nevertheless, Bush keeps reiterating that "all options remain on the table." And those include a military solution.
Ahmadinejad’s letter was delivered to the embassy of Switzerland in Tehran, which has looked after U.S. affairs since Iran and the United States broke off diplomatic relations shortly after the Islamic revolution.
"Ahmadinejad," says the Iranian dissident, "is facing major problems domestically." What Jafarzadeh is referring to is the growing number of anti-government demonstrations and protests taking place in Iran. According to sources from inside the country, there were more than 4,000 anti-government demonstrations in Iran over the past year.
"The United States should interpret Ahmadinejad’s letter as a sign of weakness and desperation, and step up pressure on the regime. In parallel to the U.N. Security Council resolution, the United States should tighten political screws on Iran by stepping up support for the Iranian opposition who has already called for regime change in Iran," added Jafarzadeh.
Forces opposed to the regime in Iran are asking the U.S. State Department to remove all restrictions from Iranian opposition groups to ensure a speedy democratic change in Iran, "before Ahmadinejad gives the ayatollahs their first nuclear bomb."