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WikiLeaks: Ahmadinejad Wanted Fuel Swap Deal

U.S. diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks reveal that Iranian President Ahmadinejad is facing internal challenges from even harder hard-liners.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 1/5/2011, 5:51 AM / Last Update: 1/5/2011, 7:06 AM

According to a U.S. diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sought a nuclear fuel swap deal more than a year ago but faced internal pressures from hard-liners.

The Associated Press reported that the cable also suggests that Iran trusted the United States (considered its “arch-foe”) more than its ally Russia to follow through with the U.N.-backed proposal, which would see Iran being provided reactor-ready fuel in exchange for giving up control of its low-enriched uranium stockpile.

The assessment was given to a top U.S. envoy by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. Turkey and Iran have had a growing friendship, and Turkey is scheduled to host the next round of nuclear talks later this month between Iran and six world powers.

According to the cable, in late 2009 Davutoglu told Assistant Secretary of State Philip Gordon that Iran's government was willing to work out a fuel swap arrangement, but Ahmadinejad was facing “huge pressures” at home. Davutoglu said that the proposal deal was “interpreted by some circles in Iran as a virtual defeat” by Western pressures.

The cable also noted that Turkish officials consider Ahmadinejad as “more flexible than others who are inside the Iranian government,” and also said that the Iranians have “more trust” in the U.S. envoys than British negotiators and that they “would also prefer to get fuel from the U.S. rather than the Russians.”

Meanwhile, another leaked cable reveals that the head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Ali Jafari, slapped Ahmadinejad in the face during an argument in a Security Council meeting, Fox News reported.

The meeting allegedly occurred after street protests were violently put down in December 2009. While Ahmadinejad argued that people needed to be given greater freedoms, Jafari said that Ahmadinejad himself was the source of the problems in Iran, and then proceeded to slap him. Both sides have denied the incident took place.

The leak allegedly came from the U.S. Embassy in Baku, Azerbaijan, but former Iranian Diplomat Mehrdad Khonsari said that while he had heard the incident took place, he does not believe that it has.

“I think it’s very unlikely that an incident of that nature would even occur,” Khonsari told Fox News. “It’s not on the cards for the head of the Revolutionary Guards to slap a sitting president.”

Khonsari admitted, however, that the Iranian regime “has never been as fragile as this in the past 31 years.”