Dutch journalist Thomas Erdbrink, who is based in Tehran, has a must-read piece today in the Washington Post which details how, now that Obama is the President-Elect and offering no-precondition talks, non-trivial but junior members of the Iranian government are making noises about walking back their own offers to hold unconditional talks.
“People who put on a mask of friendship, but with the objective of betrayal, and who enter from the angle of negotiations without preconditions, are more dangerous,” Hossein Taeb, deputy commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, said Wednesday, according to the semiofficial Mehr News Agency.
... In recent interviews, advisers to Ahmadinejad said the new U.S. administration would have to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq, show respect for Iran's system of rule by a supreme religious leader, and withdraw its objections to Iran's nuclear program before it can enter into negotiations with the Iranian government.
"The U.S. must prove that their policies have changed and are now based upon respecting the rights of the Iranian nation and mutual respect," said Mojtaba Samareh Hashemi, the president's closest adviser.
Ahmadinejad's media adviser, Mehdi Kalhor, said that "in fair circumstances" Iran would be open to talks. "But that is not when you have a bayonet pressed at your artery," he added, referring to the U.S. forces deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf.
All this provides neocon hawks with the perfect opportunity to bang the "prefidious Iranians" drum, and Ed Morrissey doesn't miss that chance:
This is the point that Obama and his allies never seem to understand. Some people just hate us, and not because of our policies on trade and security. Iran is a nation run by radical Islamist mullahs who see secular democracy as the enemy of their religion, and Western values as a temporary heresy which they plan to correct with a global caliphate under Iranian control.
Irans’ mullahs see America as the bastion of these values, and Israel as our outpost for them in the region. Europe is mostly irrelevant to them; they can deal with Europe after eliminating the arsenal of democracy, or hobbling it so badly that we no longer make a difference.
But it's Ed who is missing the point. As Spencer Ackerman points out, Obama is more of a threat to those mullahs than Bush ever was. If you're an intransigent theocon Iranian leader:
All of a sudden, you’re deprived of a method of demagoguery that’s aided your regime for a generation. And if you refuse to negotiate, you’ve just undermined everything you told the international community you wanted, and now appear unreasonable, erratic, and unattractive to foreign capitols. Amazing how the prospects for peace are more destabilizing to the Iranian establishment than any inevitably-counterproductive-and-destructive bombing campaign or war of internal subterfuge.
That's an analysis born out by Erdbrink's past work too. Back in 2004, he co-wrote a Time piece which pointed out that "dominant hard-line clerics are worried that friendly American behavior might aid reformers, who are less anti-Western than the conservatives."
There's a presidential election in Iran next year and a moderate now heads the committee which would choose the replacement for the ailing Ayatollah. In other words, it's not about nukes or about international opinion - its about the shakier thrones Irans hardline government now find themselves sitting upon; with the best weapon in their arsenal, Bush's neocon ways, consigned to history.
On the streets of Tehran, Reuters recorded some video "postcards to Obama" from ordinary Iranians back on Nov. 5th. The message - carry through on negotiations, forget the hawks.
Crossposted from Newshoggers, video added.