Iran election tactics drive nuclear deal timetable

Iran election tactics drive nuclear deal timetable
# 16 July 2014 23:50 (UTC +04:00)

Baku-APA. Failure to solve Iran's nuclear dispute by a Sunday deadline may dismay weary negotiators in Vienna and stir fresh Middle East tension, but an extension of talks could reap political gains at home for the Islamic Republic's supreme leader, APA reports quoting Reuters.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei would like to end the dispute - on favorable terms. But prolonging negotiations for a few months would help reinforce his position within Iran's complex power structure by delaying an easing of sanctions that is likely to benefit liberal competitors at elections due early in 2016.

Iran and six world powers appear likely to go on talking on Tehran's nuclear program beyond a self-imposed July 20 limit, diplomats say. A personal intervention last week by Khamenei, which crimped his negotiators' freedom to cut a deal, may have been intended to achieve just such a delay.

Iran, the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany are trying to end differences over Tehran's nuclear program, which Western nations fear is aimed at developing a nuclear weapons capability, an accusation that Iran denies.

Khamenei, who this year celebrates his 75th birthday and 25 years in a role that gives him the final say on key matters of state, would like an end to Western sanctions to boost Iran's economy. But, close observers say, electoral calculations mean he would not be put out if that takes a little longer.

Since taking over in 1989 from the founder of the Islamic Republic, fellow cleric Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Khamenei has sought to ensure that no group, including among his own conservative allies, gains enough power to challenge his status.

He has obstructed previous presidents from reformist and hardline Islamist factions. And though he has given his blessing to efforts by the incumbent since his election a year ago to pursue a nuclear settlement and contact with Washington, he will not want President Hassan Rouhani to gain too much influence.

If Rouhani's administration secures a nuclear deal, and economic sanctions start to ease as a result, Rouhani and some centrist and moderate factions who follow him could well be rewarded at the ballot box, to the detriment of other groups including security hawks close to Khamenei.

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