Iran's Domestic Nuclear Challenge

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November 4, 2009 is the 30th anniversary of the U.S. embassy takeover in Iran.

Every year, the Iranian government encouraged, and in majority of cases forced civil servants and students to take part in celebratory events and demonstrations. I know because I took part in at least two such demonstrations. As primary school children, our studies were cut short for the day, and we were taken to the streets in order to shout anti-U.S. slogans.

Few Iranians willingly went to take part in such demonstrations. In fact, the government was so enthusiastic that it did not require permission for the demonstrations.

This year, the opposite is true.

Hundreds of thousands of Iranians willingly wanted to demonstrate; so much so that the government for the first time on this occasion required permission.

The reason for their demonstrations were much different than what the government desired. While Khamenei and Ahmadinejad wanted the demonstrators to chant against the U.S, most people chanted against the government--especially Ahmadinejad.

Today's events must have brought out strong feelings of schadenfreude in the U.S, especially amongst the American hostages who were kept captive in Iran for 444 days. In a strange twist of fate, their misery--which used to be a cause of celebration for hardliners in Tehran--is turning into a nightmare for the regime.

This is on the heels of Quds day, which instead of being an anti-Israeli day, turned into an anti-Ahmadinejad day.

Therein lies one of the main reasons behind Iran's rejection of the recent nuclear deal.

The controversy surrounding the June 12 elections initially weakened the regime's domestic stance. However, as the demonstrations and the crackdown continues, the loss of faith and credibility has started to permeate to foreign policy as well. It has now become a potent tool in the hands of the opposition. This is yet another crack in an important pillar which Khamenei uses to maintain the balance of his regime.

Khamenei is now worried that if he shows any flexibility towards the West it could be interpreted as a sign of weakness by the opposition; thus emboldening and encouraging them to take his administration on even more.

This is especially true after some of the opposition demonstrators started chanting “A green and developed Iran, does not want a nuclear bomb”.

This shows that more and more people in the opposition are turning against current policies regarding the nuclear program, as they see it as a tool in the hands of Khamenei and Ahmadinejad, and not as a national project which would enhance their country's economy and security.

It is time that the West especially realized that after the June 12 elections, the Iranian nuclear program and its goals are more about internal dynamics of Iranian politics. Iran's neo-cons want to push on with making the bomb much more because of their sense of concern from and hatred for Mousavi and Karoubi than their disdain for Israel or America. As long as this perception continues, it is unlikely that we will see major positive overtures from Tehran.

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