Iranian ministry suggests openness to nuclear talks

TEHRAN — A sober analysis assessing the possible threat of a military confrontation over Iran’s nuclear program and highlighting the benefits of negotiations to avert a deeper crisis has been published by a surprising source: Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence.

The report first appeared on the ministry’s Web site Tuesday and has been republished by various Iranian media outlets, adding to growing speculation that new negotiations with the international bloc known as the P5+1, or even direct talks with the United States, may be on the horizon.

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The Intelligence Ministry is viewed as a hawkish power center within Iran’s system but not a channel for expressing the Islamic republic’s foreign policy views. The findings in the report suggest that the ministry has a pragmatic understanding of the challenges the country faces, the cost it is paying for continuing uranium enrichment at current levels, the threat of Israeli aggression and, perhaps most important, a way out of the stalemate.

Although the statement refers to Israel as the “Zionist regime,” it is otherwise devoid of the ideological tone that characterizes most ministry reports and that has been the Iranian norm for decades. Instead, the arguments in the 1,200-word report reflect many of the views agreed on by international advocates of a negotiated solution, namely that the potential destruction caused by strikes on Iran’s nuclear facilities would set back the program by only a few years at most and that diplomacy is a preferred way forward.

Ignoring the possibility of “imminent force,” the report says, would be an “unforgivable sin.” To avoid such a military confrontation, the report advises: “One of the options is to take diplomatic and political measures and use the potentials of international bodies, which is a necessary and less costly option.”

The report, titled “Reasons and Obstacles of a Military Attack by the Zionist Regime Against Iran,” also makes a clear distinction between positions on Iran’s nuclear program held by the Israeli government and the U.S. administration. It says President Obama “hopes to solve this issue peacefully and through diplomacy.” It goes on to say that Obama does not think Iran’s enrichment program, which Iran insists is solely for peaceful purposes, is an imminent threat and that, in addition to diplomacy, he thinks “severe sanctions” can help control the situation.

With Obama’s reelection Tuesday, there is guarded hope in Tehran and Washington that a solution agreeable to all parties in the nuclear standoff might finally be possible.

Across Iran’s political spectrum, the prospect of talks is being discussed more openly than ever before.

Hard-liner Mohammed Javad Larijani, secretary of Iran’s High Council for Human Rights and brother of both the country’s parliament speaker and its judiciary head, said Wednesday: “To protect the interests of our system, we would negotiate with the U.S. or anyone else even in the abyss of hell.”

Former Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a moderate voice in the regime who is believed to be in favor of negotiations, has reemerged in recent weeks after staying out of the public eye since early 2011. One of the republic’s founding fathers, Rafsanjani has often advocated a more pragmatic foreign policy, including the renewal of ties with the United States.

“In the present situation, all those who really care for our country, from all parties and with different points of view, must focus on accepting mistakes and changing behaviors and policies,” he told a gathering of reformists Tuesday.

 
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