US-Iran relations expert Trita Parsi explains why diplomatic headway can be made with Iran in the time period after the US presidential election and before the Iranian election in the Daily Beast’s “Open Zion“:
Between November 8, 2012, and mid-March 2013, a unique opportunity exists to make diplomatic headway on the nuclear issue. The U.S. elections will be over and the White House will have maximum political maneuverability. This leeway was eaten away in 2009 by the Iranian election fraud and pressure from some U.S. allies and Congress, and didn’t exist this past summer, when political considerations prevented the U.S. from putting sanctions relief on the table.
By March of next year, the window will begin to close—not because of the American political calendar, but the Iranian one. After the New Year holidays, which start March 20, Iran enters its political season with presidential elections in June. Tehran will be politically paralyzed at least till the elections. If there is a repeat of the 2009 fraud, the paralysis could reign much longer.
But commentary from Tehran suggests that the entrenched Iranian leadership is unlikely to allow disgraced President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to achieve foreign policy successes during the final months of his term. According to Mohammad Sadeq Kharazi, a top Iranian envoy and close adviser to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (translation by Al-Monitor):
I reckon any kind of change in bilateral relations between Iran and America impractical and precluded until the holding of Iran’s presidential election. If they have understood well that the subject of foreign relations falls under the scope of the highest authority of the Islamic regime, namely the Supreme Leader, why weren’t they ready and aren’t ready to negotiate with Mr. Ahmadinejad and to solve the issues with his government? The government and president whose days left are ending fast and who enjoys a negative position inside the American political system because of some of the slogans he has offered.
He will continue to be framed as someone who, through mismanagement and bluster, brought about the enhanced sanctions regime, with Khamenei eventually taking charge and fixing the mess. He will have a hard time swallowing this reality and few believe that he will accept his checkmated predicament quietly.