Cablegate: Xxxxxxxxxxxx Argues Time Is Ripe For

DE RUEHLO #3923/01 2851644
P 121644Z OCT 07

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 05 LONDON 003923



E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/12/2017


Classified By: Political Minister Counselor Maura Connelly for reasons 1.4 (B) and (D).

1. (C) Summary. XXXXXXXXXXXX told London Iran Watcher (Poloff) that Islamic republic of Iran decision-makers lack the confidence to initiate an offer to the West to soften Iran's nuclear or regional posture, but are now, due to internal political conditions, hoping for a Western-initiated proposal on these issues. XXXXXXXXXXXX argued a Western offer could be crafted to satisfy both Iranian and western security needs and could, properly packaged, entail no public retreat on core issues for either side. Interestingly, XXXXXXXXXXXX, while reiterating the IRI's oft-heard insistence there will be no IRI suspension of enrichment, in the same breath said Iran can "walk away" from its military nuclear program if the Iranian public perceives that the regime has been unyielding and has won recognition of "its international rights" to peaceful nuclear development.

2. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX seemlessly combined bravado and posturing with an apparently sincere desire for U.S.-Iranian dialogue, even partnership: XXXXXXXXXXXX again emphasized Iran's regional asymmetric warfare capacities, dismissed Ahmedinejad's importance within the IRI, said the USG should address its concerns and outreach efforts to Khamenei vice Ahmedinejad, argued for a strategic partnership with the West, and said Iran can &resist sanctions indefinitely.8 Referencing an earlier, August conversation on Iraq security, XXXXXXXXXXXX appeared to dismiss Poloff's description of IRI-supported attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan as an issue of great concern to the USG; XXXXXXXXXXXX made no new predictions on the levels of future Iraq attacks but again intimated IRI central control over its security services is frequently weak. XXXXXXXXXXXX

End Summary. Iranians Prefer Personal Communications ------------------------

3. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX spoke one-on-one with Poloff on October 1 on the margins of a small private dinner attended by spouses, including XXXXXXXXXXXX. No other Iranians or other foreign officials were present. The dinner was requested XXXXXXXXXXXX only a few days in advance, at the request of XXXXXXXXXXXX. XXXXXXXXXXXX told the assembled dinner guests that he was visiting the UK to oversee living arangements for his three children now studying in UK universities or graduate schools. Similar to how he ended his XXXXXXXXXXXX encounter with Poloff, XXXXXXXXXXXX made no specific suggestion for follow-up meetings.

XXXXXXXXXXXX's Think Tank: Small --------------------------

4. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX Without providing details, XXXXXXXXXXXX said there has been a tremendous debate among experts and advisors in Qom and Tehran on the wisest geopolitical course for Iran to pursue with the United States and other Western governments. XXXXXXXXXXXX(Comment: another London contact well acquainted with XXXXXXXXXXXX believes his XXXXXXXXXXXX amounts to only XXXXXXXXXXXX and several clerks, and that XXXXXXXXXXXX is looking for alternate employment in the IRI in the wake of XXXXXXXXXXXX . End comment).

Ex-IRGC Head XXXXXXXXXXXX: Enjoying New Work --------------------------

5. (C) Asked about the current activities of XXXXXXXXXXXX told Poloff, somewhat evasively, that XXXXXXXXXXXX ." XXXXXXXXXXXX is well known as a XXXXXXXXXXXX, and that the personnel move had been part of Iran's "preparation for defense." XXXXXXXXXXXX Claims IRI Leaders "Confident," but Deadlocked ---------------------------

6. (C) Without prompting by Poloff, XXXXXXXXXXXX spoke at length on what he called Iran's "confident and strong" regional posture, from Lebanon to Afghanistan, and on the degree of "domestic control (i.e., crackdowns on civil and human rights) which we have established" in Iran itself. He also said the approach of March 2008 "majlis" elections was the kind of "new circumstance" that would alter the balance of political forces within Iran in unpredictable ways. He repeated his claim that IRI receptivity to a Western negotiation offer is higher now than it is likely to be for "a long time in the future." XXXXXXXXXXXX veered back and forth between the themes of regional strength and domestic control, closely linking the two and repeatedly saying IRI leaders "feel very strong now." At the same time, and declining to discuss names or factions, XXXXXXXXXXXX said repeatedly there is, in his view, a "perfect balance" among major political groupings, but at the same time near-universal uncertainty on what Iran's next steps with the West on regional and nuclear issues should be. He explained this "balance" makes all groups "afraid" of proposing any new idea or initiative, and that the charge of being an appeaser of the West sticks to anyone appearing to back compromise on Iran's nuclear program or its claim to regional preeminence. XXXXXXXXXXXX added there is "no possibility" the Supreme Leader will intervene on his own initiative to provide a new foreign policy direction; Khamenei, according to XXXXXXXXXXXX, prefers to react to events and to suggestions rather than to put forward new ideas. In response to Poloff questions, XXXXXXXXXXXX agreed "deadlock" would be a more accurate English term to describe rival groups' posture on foreign policy.

IRGC and Khamenei Matter, Not Ahmedinejad -------------------------

7. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX repeatedly emphasized how broad is the control that "we" (the IRGC) have achieved, and went out of his way to minimize Ahmedinejad's importance within the IRI power structure XXXXXXXXXXXX. XXXXXXXXXXXX spoke animatedly on what he said were the linked twin themes of respect for Iran and need for the West to focus on the Supreme Leader, whom he said is both the center of gravity within the IRI and also is President Bush's natural counterpart, rather than Ahmedinejad. XXXXXXXXXXXX said the title "president" appears to LONDON 00003923 003 OF 005 confuse Western goverments, who, according to XXXXXXXXXXXX, erroneously analogize Iran's government to their own. In the same vein, he argued Ahmedinejad's "useless" rhetoric, on Israel and nuclear power, is "meaningless" within Iran, due to what XXXXXXXXXXXX called Ahmedinejad's politically unimportant role within the IRI. XXXXXXXXXXXX did not try to argue the holocaust denial issue arises from mistranslations from Farsi.

IRI's Overriding Priority: Public Respect --------------------------

8. (C) Arguing President Bush was right not to reply to Ahmedinejad's letter in December 2006, XXXXXXXXXXXX said that, were President Bush to write to Khamenei using phrases similar to past Presidential speeches expressing respect for Iran, Khamenei and the IRI security apparatus would take such a White House missive as, in effect, a security guarantee. They would then, XXXXXXXXXXXX argued, see themselves as having achieved their main political goals -- regime survival and regional prestige -- at which, he said, the Iranian nuclear program is aimed. Pressed by Poloff on how such a far-flung scenario could translate into actual progress on America's very concrete priorities of suspension and regional behavior, XXXXXXXXXXXX argued engagement would come down to manageable issues of face-saving, in which the West would need to assist, for the IRI on enrichment, centered on an international "recognition of Iran's nuclear rights." In reponse to Poloff's questions, XXXXXXXXXXXX said such recognition would not, in substance, have to go beyond rights "already laid out" in internationally agreed documents; he said suspension could, under the domestic political cover which international recognition would provide, be embraced by the IRI "as a (political) victory." When Poloff commented that most elements of recognition of non-military nuclear rights, coupled to verifiable transparency, have been in these public documents, and on offer by the P5 1 for almost two years, XXXXXXXXXXXX agreed enthusiastically, and wryly noted "no one (inside Iran) knows what is really in these documents -- it is rhetoric which is politically important."

Make Us An Offer So We Can Respond -----------------

9. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX went on to urge that the current confluence of regional and domestic conditions make Iranian leaders confident enough to consider an innovative, comprehensive offer by the United States and its allies on nuclear and regional issues (Comment: XXXXXXXXXXXX never appeared willing to discuss one issue in isolation from the other. End comment). Poloff reviewed for XXXXXXXXXXXX the P5 1 offer to negotiate which has been on the table since June 2006, and explained that this approach is reiterated in the result of the P5 1 meetings in New York; when Poloff offered XXXXXXXXXXXX a hard copy of the September 28 P5 1 XXXXXXXXXXXX Poloff told XXXXXXXXXXXX that, if Iran does not suspend enrichment and satisfy XXXXXXXXXXXX by November as to progress on the nuclear issue, it can expect additional UN sanctions to be voted on soon thereafter.

Creative Ways for IRI to Declare Victory ------------------------

10. (C) Poloff reminded XXXXXXXXXXXX that the West has been prepared to support peaceful nuclear development in Iran for some time, with the missing element being transparency on Iran's part, but that the common perception inside Iran, based on IRI disinformation, seems to be that the West wants to deny any nuclear development at all. XXXXXXXXXXXX took issue with none of this, simply reiterating, in a somewhat mechanical fashion, that Iran "will never suspend." In literally the next breath, however, XXXXXXXXXXXX said U.S. nuclear LONDON 00003923 004 OF 005 concerns could be addressed. If a Western public statement of Iran's present nuclear rights, as the West now understands them to be, were presented in a way that appeared to the Iranian public to involve new flexibility by the West and as well as indicate a successful outcome for the IRI of their nuclear efforts, U.S. concerns on a weapon "can be met." Asked if this meant Iran "could walk away from" its military program, including enrichment, with full verification of transparency, XXXXXXXXXXXX said "yes, walk away." At the same time XXXXXXXXXXXX noted "we could not say we agree to suspension," but could say work could be halted, and transparency addressed, without a bomb as the final result. XXXXXXXXXXXX offered no further specifics, and PolOff suggested none, instead referring XXXXXXXXXXXX back to the Political Directors' statement as a basis for any engagement.

Sanctions: "We Can Resist Indefinitely." -------------------------

11. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX discounted the effect international sanctions are having on Iran's economy or politics, pointing to Iranian merchants' traditional ability to improvise, the ample supply of consumer goods in Iran even with sanctions, Iranians' familiarity with deprivation, and, above all, high oil prices and revenues. He referred to gasoline rationing as a long-planned IRI measure to prepare for the eventuality of oil sanctions.

Iraq Security, Afghanistan Arms -------------------------------

12. (C) When XXXXXXXXXXXX referred to his XXXXXXXXXXXX exchange with Poloff on Iraq security, Poloff noted that: neither the American public nor government, can tolerate actions which shed the blood of American soldiers; the USG still must have "proof on the ground" of improved Iranian behavior in Iraq; and it is now clearer than ever the XXXXXXXXXXXX is sending arms to the Taliban in Afghanistan. XXXXXXXXXXXX gave no direct reply, and did not say whether he sees levels of violence in Iraq as having gone up or down since August.

13. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX commented to Poloff that the same dynamic between many Quds Force leaders and IRI policy makers still applies today. Poloff asked whether XXXXXXXXXXXX meant by this that Quds Force operational level personnel are independent enough to be able to ship weapons to Afghanistan without authorization, or even in defiance of higher echelon orders to the contrary; XXXXXXXXXXXX confirmed this was his point. Poloff replied that all governments are held responsible for the actions of their armed defenders; Iranian decision-makers must understand killing U.S. soldiers is something Americans cannot tolerate, and that American authorities will always act to protect American soldiers. XXXXXXXXXXXX appeared to brush the point aside.

Comment: A Confusing, Very Unwestern Approach -----------------------

14. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX was, as before, impassioned but soft-spoken and deliberate. His anecdote, XXXXXXXXXXXX , came in response to Poloff comments and appeared spontaneous and unrehearsed; XXXXXXXXXXXX LONDON 00003923 005 OF 005 XXXXXXXXXXXX, like many other Iranians, both those "westernized" as well as those more "revolutionary" in orientation, has some characteristics which appeal to many U.S. interlocutors, including personal warmth, strong focus on family, and a professed respect for compassion, piety, and honesty. In the political sphere, however, some Iranian sensitivities produce results more difficult for an American mentality to fathom. One example recurs regularly in PolOff's experience with respect to regional security: Iranians of various political stripes, XXXXXXXXXXXX included, appear impervious to U.S. concern for the safety of individual American soldiers; they exhibit little or no affect or understanding when attacks on U.S. troops are described as a potential "casus belli," their indifference appearing to arise not from defiance but, rather, from incomprehension.

Regime Survival Is the Goal ---------------------------

15. (C) In speaking of IRI leadership and paralysis, XXXXXXXXXXXX appeared to be describing not strength and confidence among IRI leaders, but weakness: a generalized sense of political vulnerability and uncertainty, which has as its public face rejectionist rhetoric, a defiant posture on enrichment, and a siege mentality on domestic threats. The core objective of IRI decision makers, as XXXXXXXXXXXX describes them, is the symbolic attainment of status, respect, and legitimacy co-equal with the United States, an elusive and ill-defined goal. XXXXXXXXXXXX in effect describes an Iranian bomb, or some symbolically equivalent capability, as a means of achieving the real IRI goal, of legitimacy and survival, for which "respect" is the shorthand.

Not A "Capo" but Still "Connected" ---------------------

16. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX. cfm Tuttle

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