Iran rift over UN sanctions, Robert Gates claims
A rift has opened between Iran's president and the Supreme Leader since the imposition of UN sanctions designed to force the country to abandon its nuclear programme, Robert Gates, the US defence secretary has claimed
UN finance and trade measures adopted in May have caught the Iranian regime off guard by biting much deeper than projected. The impact of the sanctions was so severe that the diplomatic campaign, spearheaded by the US and backed by Europe, Russia and China, represented the best hope of forcing the regime to abandon its nuclear ambitions, which appear designed to produce a nuclear bomb.
Sign of that political infighting has intensified in recent weeks with the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei being forced to shore up his position during a high profile trip to the holy city of Qom. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the beleagured president who was truimphed in a rigged election last, has come under renewed criticism.
US officials had concluded that tensions between the pair was escalating.
"We even have some evidence that Khamenei now is beginning to wonder if Ahmadinejad is lying to him about the impact of the sanctions on the economy," he said. "I personally believe they are intent on acquiring nuclear weapons, but also the information we that have is that they've been surprised by the impact of the sanctions."
Mr Gates, who plans to retire early next year said that a military strike would by contrast only delay Iran's nuclear programme but not stop it.
"The only long-term solution to avoiding an Iranian nuclear weapons capability is for the Iranians to decide it's not in their interest," he said. "Everything else is a short-term solution - is a two-to-three year solution."
Meanwhile the French government summoned the Iranian ambassador in Paris to protest an attack on its diplomats in Tehran at the home of the French ambassador on Sunday night.
Iranian security officials arrested guests arriving at the residence of French ambassador Bernard Poletti, who had invited French and Iranian guests there for an evening of Persian music. In the melee, French diplomats suffered injuries.
"On November 14, particularly serious incidents took place at the entry to the ambassadorial residence in Tehran," the French foreign ministry said. "Its entry was blocked by unidentified security services who proceeded to arrest guests of the French ambassador and carried out unacceptable acts of violence including against French diplomatic personnel."