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Is Ahmadinejad Now Free to Make a Nuclear Deal?

BERLIN – In Istanbul this week, representatives of Iran and the “5+1” group (the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany), led by European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton, will resume talks about Iran’s nuclear program. No breakthrough is likely, but the outcome could be more favorable than many expect.

In October 2009, an initial understanding was reached, according to which Iranian low-enriched uranium (LEU) would be delivered to Russia for further enrichment and conversion into fuel rods for the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR). But this accord faltered on Iran’s domestic politics: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s political adversaries effectively blocked it. Might the same thing happen again?

Ahmadinejad, who was severely weakened after his disputed reelection in 2009, has now consolidated his position. Representatives of his regime are still concerned about what they see as externally backed attempts to stage a “velvet revolution” in the country, but there is little fear of new challenges from within.

One conservative intellectual put it in almost Nietzschean terms: “Yes, two million people took to the street after the elections. But they were voters, not fighters. They criticized the situation. But no one wants to change the system by force.” In other words, there is no will to power on the part of civil society and the opposition.