The Cable

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Short takes: Hurricane Bill

Mixed signals on Iran nuclear cooperation: In new cabinet packed with loyalists, Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has appointed a Reformist-era official and physicist as vice president and head of Iran’s atomic energy agency, the New York Times reports. Ali Akbar Salehi "served as Iran’s representative to the I.A.E.A. when the reform leader Mohammad Khatami was president," ...

Mixed signals on Iran nuclear cooperation:

Mixed signals on Iran nuclear cooperation:

In new cabinet packed with loyalists, Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has appointed a Reformist-era official and physicist as vice president and head of Iran’s atomic energy agency, the New York Times reports. Ali Akbar Salehi "served as Iran’s representative to the I.A.E.A. when the reform leader Mohammad Khatami was president," the Times writes. 

In the past few days, Tehran has apparently stepped up its cooperation with the UN atomic energy agency. "Iran allowed the agency’s inspectors to visit the nearly finished Arak heavy water reactor last week after a yearlong ban, diplomats told The Associated Press," the paper says. "Last week, they added, Tehran acceded to the agency’s requests to expand its monitoring of the Natanz uranium enrichment site, which produces nuclear materials that could be further enriched to weapons grade."

Salehi "is known to be decent and so this is apparently a good sign," a nonproliferation expert experienced with Iran tells The Cable. "Anyway the ‘signs’ should not be overemphasized. The choice of people has more to do with internal politicking, with family relations, … than with political orientation." Salehi replaces Gholam Reza Aghazadeh, said to be an ally of Iranian opposition leader Mir Hussein Mousavi.

After earlier reports it was considering appointing chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili as foreign minister, Iran kept holdover foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki in the job.

"I don’t share the view of some in Washington that the hardliners for ideological reasons cannot make a deal with the U.S.," said the National Iranian American Council’s Trita Parsi. "On the contrary, they can and they want to. But they insist that deal has to be with them, not with the reformists. Once in a more comfortable situation – that is, having incapacitated their reformist opposition – it wouldn’t be surprising to see the hardliners show a modicum of flexibility at various phases of diplomacy.

"The current nuclear moves, however, may be more geared towards teasing the West to move closer towards recognizing Ahmadinejad," Parsi added. "The moves may have more to do with domestic Iranian politics than a larger nuclear negotiation tactic."

A European diplomat told The Cable that Iran’s recent reported increased cooperation with the IAEA and appointment of some women to the cabinet among other moves could be a way to do just enough to further divide the international community from approving international sanctions.

Moscow said Thursday that the "P5+1" would meet September 2 to discuss Iran’s nuclear program.

Russian honeytrap:

A U.S. diplomat was allegedly caught in an apparent Russian sting. Russian papers allege the second secretary at the U.S. embassy in Moscow is an intelligence officer with diplomatic cover to do outreach to Russian religious groups. That’s totally false, the State Department says: "Kyle Hatcher is a valued member of the U.S. Foreign Service assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow," State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said by email Friday. "He has been recognized with an award for his outstanding work on human rights and religious freedom."

Hatcher "has been the subject of a smear campaign to discredit him and his work in the Russian press and on the Internet," Kelly continued. "We deplore this type of smear campaign. Hatcher enjoys the full confidence of the U.S. Ambassador to Russia and will continue in his current tour of duty in Moscow."

Miscellaneous:

Israel poll: Ha’aretz reports on a new poll that indicates only 12% of Israelis believe Obama supports Israel.

Hurricane Bill: As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former president Bill Clinton arrive in Bermuda for a few days break, Hurricane Bill set to flood island’s coastlines.

Laura Rozen writes The Cable daily at ForeignPolicy.com.

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