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IRAN: Behind the Scenes Ahead of Kazakhstan Talks

Bottom Line: Against the backdrop of 25 February P5+1 talks in Astana, Kazakhstan, the Obama administration is seeking to lay the foundation for a deal with Tehran once Iran’s June presidential elections are over, but Israel and Saudi Arabia will covertly attempt to hijack any détente.

Analysis: First, two things are happening in Iran that are significant to the backdrop of 25 February nuclear talks in Kazakhstan: 1) the Iranian riyal is on a fast downward spiral against the dollar, plummeting to under 40,000 to the US dollar and counting as Iran goes on a printing binge to finance energy subsidies; 2) there is a great deal of political horse-jockeying going on ahead of 14 June presidential elections and no deal can be made with Iran before these elections are over.

Iranian elections pit three factions against each other: the faction President Mahmud Ahmadinejad; and two ultra-conservative factions.

What is keeping Tehran at a distance for now is the fact that while the Obama administration may wish to deal in détente, the US Congress is dominated by conservatives who would attempt to stymie any such progress. What the Obama administration has perhaps recalled is that historically, energy deals with enemies have actually served as the backbone of US energy supplies: Soviet gas and oil during the Cold War, for instance. The goal is direct bilateral talks with Iran.

What is ostensibly on the table - not in Kazakhstan, but…




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