TEHRAN -- When Iran's nuclear negotiating team sits down with its Western counterparts in Almaty, Kazakhstan, on Tuesday, it will offer no new plans or suggestions, people familiar with the views of the Iranian leadership say. More likely, they say, the Iranian negotiators will sit with arms crossed, demanding a Western change of heart.
Iran's leaders believe that the effects of Western sanctions have been manageable, and Iran continues to make progress on what it says is a peaceful nuclear energy program. And Iran's leaders see that North Korea, which openly admits that it wants nuclear weapons, has performed three nuclear tests without suffering any real penalties.
As a result, Iran's leaders feel that they, not the West, hold the upper hand in negotiations. "The West has no option but stopping to threaten Iran and reduce sanctions," said Kazem Anbarloui, the editor in chief of the state newspaper Resalat, who was appointed by Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. "But it seems they just want to talk for the sake of talks."
Further signaling that they expect a grand gesture, Iranian officials last week turned down a Western proposal to gradually lift sanctions on trading in gold in return for the closing of a mountain bunker enrichment facility called Fordo. They said the site, which is under an inspection regime by the United Nations nuclear watchdog, would never be shut down, because it afforded protection against attacks, particularly from Israel.
"Such a proposal would only help the Zionist regime to threaten our facilities," an influential lawmaker, Ala'edin Borujerdi, told reporters. "They would never dare to attack us, but why would we tempt them?"
In recent days, dozens of Iranian politicians have made defiant statements, urging the United States and other nations to accept Iranian nuclear "realities," which means unconditional acceptance of Iran's nuclear energy program.
"If they want constructive negotiations, it's better this time they come with a new strategy and credible proposals," the top nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, told reporters before he left for Kazakhstan.
As a sign of their resistance to Western pressures, Iranian officials on Saturday announced the mass installment of higher-yielding enrichment centrifuges, said they had discovered new uranium mines, and designated new sites for future nuclear projects.
"You should raise the level of your tolerance," Fereydoon Abbasi-Davani, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said on Saturday. "Try to find ways for cooperation with a country that is moving towards technological progress."
On Sunday, Iranian lawmakers signed a petition urging their negotiating team to defend national interests in Almaty. "The West must learn that Iran's nuclear train, which moves on the rails of peaceful goals, will never stop," the petition read, according to the semiofficial Fars news agency.
At the same time, a former top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, who is currently the speaker of the Iranian Parliament, stressed that reports by the United Nations watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, had no effect on the "will and determination of the Iranian nation."
Iranian officials do not deny that the sanctions have had an impact -- Iran's oil sales have fallen by more than half because of sanctions, and the national currency lost more than 40 percent of its value in 2012, amid the international isolation of its central bank. But they say they are confident that the country can withstand any hardships the West imposes.
"The U.S. government is imposing all its power to impose pressure on us; they tell other countries not to trade with us," President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Saturday. "We will pass this situation."
Ayatollah Khamenei gave much the same message in two addresses this month. "If the Iranian people had wanted to surrender to the Americans, they would not have carried out a revolution," he said in a meeting at his home, which was broadcast by the Iranian news media. "The people, particularly the underprivileged classes, truly feel the hardships. But they do not separate themselves from the Islamic Republic, because they know that the Islamic Republic and the dear Islam are the powerful hands which can solve the problems."
In elevators, in private taxis and at family parties in the Iranian capital, many hope that the talks in Almaty will bring an end to the decade-long nuclear standoff. But few expect much. "Both the U.S. and our leaders will never give in," said one judge who did not want his name mentioned because of the nature of his work. "There can only be one winner and one loser; no compromise."
Ramtin Rastin contributed reporting.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.