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As sanctions loom, is Iran sending peace signals to the US?

Beyond the usual anti-American rhetoric, some analysts say that Iran is trying to avoid sanctions and resolve tensions with Washington over its nuclear program.

By Staff writer / May 26, 2010

Iranian President Ahmadinejad, speaks at a public gathering in the city of Kerman, southeast of the capital Tehran, Iran, Wednesday. Ahmadinejad urged Barack Obama to accept a nuclear fuel swap deal, he said, 'if they (the US and its allies) are truthful when they say they seek cooperation…they should accept this offer.'

Hamed Malekpour/Fars News Agency/AP


Istanbul, Turkey

Iran’s triumphant anti-American rhetoric may have hardly changed.

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Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei declared on Monday that countries around the world “thirst” for Iran’s message of “values, humanity and deliverance of nations from the grip of domineering powers.”

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad recently announced, “Iran is the world’s most powerful country, and they [Western powers] themselves admit this.” He routinely proclaims that the US, West, and its capitalist ways have “collapsed.”

But behind the usual high-pitched pokes from Tehran, analysts say several Iranian actions signal a serious desire to resolve the nuclear standoff – and perhaps even to find a limited rapprochement with arch-enemy America.

The Iranian olive branches, they cite:

Are those Iranian signals real? And is the United States listening?

Amid the current US push for more UN sanctions, Washington may not perceive these as significant efforts by Iran.

“Here they hope the US would take [Iran's] actions more seriously than words,” says a political analyst in Tehran who asked not be named for security reasons. Iran’s hard-line leadership “may try to pacify this potentially destructive enemy [the US], so that they [Iran's leaders] feel reassured about their future.”

Tehran's leaders are not just concerned about sanctions. On Monday, The New York TImes reported that Gen. David Petraeus last September ordered a “broad expansion of clandestine military activity” in the Middle East that “appears to authorize specific operations in Iran.” And the Iranians haven't forgotten that President George Bush, whose officials routinely spoke of “regime change” in Iran, authorized $400 million in secret funding to weaken the Islamic Republic.

“Once and for all, they [Iran's leaders] want to do away with this existential threat,” says the Tehran analyst. “When you have an enemy which you just can’t ignore, what are you supposed to do? Are you going to take it on in a suicide attack? Or try to appease it, and make it friendly in a face-saving way?”

As viewed from Tehran, positive Iranian steps in recent weeks include Iran’s decision to embrace a nuclear fuel swap deal – a plan to export 1,200 kg of Iran’s homemade low-enriched uranium. Iran rejected a similar plan last October, when it was backed by the US and the UN, but accepted it last week after intense mediation with Turkey and Brazil.