Newspaper close to Khamenei slams reduced nuclear activities

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With Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (P5+1) set to meet on Nov. 20 in Geneva to resolve the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program, Kayhan, whose editor is chosen by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has questioned the continuation of talks after it was reported that Iran has reduced some of its nuclear activity, suggesting that a concession to do so was influenced by the same people who, with the help of the United States and Israel, brought millions of protesters to the streets after the contested 2009 presidential  elections.

While the supreme leader has stated his support for the negotiators, hard-line media outlets have become more vocal in their criticism of the West, particularly France, since the previous round of talks. Even traditional conservative publications have begun to question whether a deal is possible at all.

Hossein Shariatmadari, the editor of Kayhan, questioned why Iran brought some of its nuclear activity “to a near suspension” even before negotiations had reached a conclusion. According to the latest report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Iran has significantly reduced its nuclear activity since President Hassan Rouhani took office in August.

“Is not the suspended nuclear activity or the extremely reduced nuclear activity that [IAEA head Yukiya] Amano has referenced in his report,” Shariatmadari asked, “in large part the illegal demands and blackmail that the P5+1 recommended for Iran in the previous round in Geneva, which was opposed by the respectable Iranian team and resulted in the negotiations ending without an agreement? If it is — and it is — what is the continuation of talks for? Given that before the third round of negotiations in Geneva, we have emptied the winning hands of our negotiators, what will our negotiators negotiate and haggle over then when they go to Geneva?”

Although it is not clear what the demands of the P5+1 were that resulted in the delegations returning to their capitals for further consultations, France recently presented four conditions for the nuclear talks: that all nuclear installations be put under supervision, 20% enrichment be suspended, the existing stockpile of enriched uranium be reduced and that the construction of the Arak heavy-water reactor be halted. According to the latest IAEA report, Iran has not yet halted 20% enrichment.

Shariatmadari went on, “Not only has the West not shown the smallest expression of thanks for outstanding and important concessions that it clawed out of Iran freely and without cost, but they have added to the amount of their blackmailing concessions.”

The various reported differences between the United States and Israel are the products of a “good cop, bad cop” routine that was pre-determined before the negotiations started, according to Shariatmadari. He also asked directly of the negotiation team whether they really thought that the United States would ignore its “organic connections” with Israel for the sake of Iran. He called any such notion “simplistic” and viewed Israel’s hard-line positions in the negotiations as taken simply to force Iran to give more concessions.

Shariatmadari concluded, “The concession of suspending a significant part of our nuclear activity, which we gave to our opponents, can only be described with the word ‘appeasement.’” He added, “There is a serious worry that the respectable negotiating team of our country, without them wanting or being aware of it, have been influenced … by the companions of the American-Israeli 2009 sedition.”

The term “sedition” is used by the hard-line media to describe the protests that erupted after the 2009 elections. Along with the presidential candidates of the time, some hard-line media outlets have accused former Presidents Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami of having roles in the crisis. While Shariatmadari did not mention Rafsanjani or Khatami by name, he suggested that it’s possible that the “seditionists” have “influence in the peripheral areas of the administration” and warned that they may be planning “another betrayal.”