Thursday, June 15, 2006

Iran sends mixed messages on incentives package..and picks up some important new allies.

Iran continues to work the West with its good cop/bad cop routine.

Today, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khameini announced in no uncertain terms that Tehran would continue its nuclear activities, effectively rejecting the terms the package of incentives.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran will not succumb to [the West’s political] pressures and believes that the continuation of this scientific movement is one of its fundamental and prominent goals", Khamenei told officials of the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran (AEOI). His comments were aired on state television, just in case anyone had any doubts.

On the other hand Iran's President Ahmadinejad took the opposite side, stating that Iran was reviewing the package and was open to negotiations...according to none other than our ol' pal, Vladimir Putin.

Putin also went official today at the conference saying Iran has the right to Nuclear technology.
Big surprise, right?

What's interesting is the context and venue of Ahmadinejad's remarks. They were made in Shanghai, China at the conference of a little known group called the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Six members - China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan make up the group, which was founded five years ago under Chinese leadership to foster regional security and economic cooperation.

Iran, Pakistan, Mongolia and India all have observer status.

Essentially, this group is the skeleton of a counter US bloc, especially as concerns energy. And having Ahmadinejad there was a major signal to the US, especially after US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld made a point of saying that Ahmadinejad shouldn't have been invited because one of the main SCO goals - at least officially -is to fight terrorism and Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism.

At this, the fifth anniversary conference, Russia, China and the Central Asian nations there are supposed show that their anti-NATO establishment in eastern Eurasia is making headway. For that purpose, the member states will probably allow themselves some anti-American pronouncements - which is why Ahmadinejad is there-and come up with a decision to fight their virtual opposition on the Internet. In addition, Russia may announce its intention to allot half a billion dollars for the development of the organization in order to increase its standing in the organization and challenge China for its leadership.

This is not something the West should ignore, particularly if India gets more involved...though I have doubts that it will given the US-India nukes deal and the Muslim makeup of a large part of the membership.

For his part, Ahamadinejad wants in as a full member..big time.

"We want this organization to develop into a powerful body, influential in regional and international politics, economics and trade, and also serve to block threats and unlawful strong-arm interference from various countries," Ahmadinejad declared.

Could he have made things more plain?

Ahmadinejad also called for a regional energy conference to be held in Tehran, an idea that Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianzhao Liu said appeals to China.

Stay tuned....

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