From a DEBKAfile Analysis, February 27, 2009:
Iranian strongman Akbar Hashemi Rasanjani sets a trap
The Friday sermon delivered by former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rasanjani in Tehran on Feb. 27 embodied an incentive and a catch for US president Barack Obama, condemned Israel and threatened Russia.
He said: "…we don't make false promises. Therefore I declare that Iran's nuclear plan is not to build weapons… and we are ready to prove it in negotiations." Indicating Israel, he said: "'You are planting a false notion in public minds." Addressing the Russians, he said bluntly that "…even if they don’t' deal with the [Bushehr] project, we can finish it on our own."
The Iranian leader closest to supreme ruler Ayatollah Ali Khameni had in fact issued Tehran's first explicit invitation to Obama to open direct negotiations which promised an Iranian pledge not to build a nuclear weapon.
That was the incentive. But ...He was saying in typical Rafsanjani shorthand that Tehran was willing to kick off the bargaining with a pledge not to develop on nuclear weapons, provided Washington agreed to the Islamic Republic retaining the capability to do so.
This formula would reduce the Tehran-Washington talks to haggling over where to place the cutoff point in the Iranian program.
The Iranians would demand to be allowed leeway for completing a bomb within four to six months; the Americans would likely insist on halting the program two to-three years short of a military capability, and the negotiations would end in a compromise.
Rafsanjani employed this verbal tactic on the strength of the information about the Obama administration's position gained from informal preliminary Iranian-US contacts in the last two months. Tehran believes the US president needs Iran's help in the Afghan War and would therefore be flexible in his dialogue with Iran. They calculate that he would go an extra mile for the sake of showing he had managed to arrest the Islamic Republic's march toward a nuclear weapon.
Israel is adamantly opposed to this formula, certain Tehran will use it as a blind to forge ahead secretly until its clandestine bomb and warhead projects are close to assembly at short notice...